PTSD is not as common as you’d think

A firecracker going off.
The Fourth of July can be hard for those with post-traumatic stress disorder, who may be triggered by loud noises and fireworks. Photo credit Christopher Downey/Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Fourth of July can be a difficult time for many people with post-traumatic stress disorder, who may be triggered by loud noises and fireworks. But doctors say the illness itself is actually quite rare.

PTSD can occur after any trauma, whether it’s an assault, a violent incident or a battle in a military conflict. Dr. Tim Overton, a psychologist at the Steven  A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania, said while a lot of people experience trauma, few will actually suffer PTSD.

“PTSD is relatively rare, even among individuals who have experienced a traumatic event,” he said. “Only 7% to 8% will develop PTSD, even though more than half of the U.S. population will experience a traumatic event at some point.”

If victims frequently think about their trauma or have unwanted flashbacks, Overton said they should seek help. He said PTSD is treatable with therapy and medication.

“Typically, the symptoms of PTSD immediately following the event are expected and almost healthy that you are going to be thinking about the event more frequently, that you are going to be more on guard. But when it turns into PTSD is if those symptoms are persisting beyond a month or two following the event,” he added.