How common is PTSD? Community surveys show that exposure to traumatic events is the rule rather than the exception, having happened to up to 90 per cent of subjects at some time. PTSD is much less common, being found in less than 10 per cent in the same surveys. This apparent discrepancy is because:

• Not all those exposed to a traumatic event develop PTSD.

• PTSD tends to resolve naturally in many cases.

As would be expected, rates of PTSD after accidents are somewhat higher, and figures of approximately 20 per cent at 3 months and 15 per cent at 1 year have been suggested among road traffic accident victims who attend hospital. Those who appear to have felt entirely out of control during the traumatic incident appear most at risk. The disorder may persist for years, with relapses at anniversaries. Many cases are complicated by alcohol misuse.

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