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Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder?

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can occur after you have been through a traumatic event. A traumatic event is something terrible and scary that you see, hear about, or that happens to you, like: Combat exposure, sexual or physical abuse, serious accident, etc. Symptoms of PTSD could include: re-experiencing the traumatic event in the form of a flashback episode, avoiding situations that remind you of the traumatic event, exaggerated startle response, and feeling hyper-aroused for a prolonged period of time after the traumatic event. Areas of academic performance affected could be: Attention and concentration difficulty, information processing challenges, learning and memory deficits, sluggish abstract reasoning, slowed executive functions (problem solving, planning, insight/awareness, and sequencing).

What Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is NOT?

PTSD is not a disorder that is selective. People who serve in the military are not the only individuals capable of having PTSD. A connection to being violent or unstable is another misconception associated with PTSD. Though these examples are possible symptoms of PTSD, symptoms can vary greatly depending on the individual. Additional stressors such as sleep disturbance and panic attacks can also impact performance. 

How Common is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder?

It is important to note that going through trauma is not rare. About 6 of every 10 (or 60%) of men and 5 of every 10 (or 50%) of women experience at least one trauma in their lives. Women are more likely to experience sexual assault and child sexual abuse. Men are more likely to experience accidents, physical assault, combat, disaster, or to witness death or injury. However,  approximately 7 to 8 individuals out of 100 will experience some form of PTSD, where we see that in those who experience PTSD, women will experience PTSD at a higher rate than men, 10 out of 100 compared to 4 out of 100.

How Common is PTSD Among Veterans?

Occurs in about 11% of Afghanistan War Veterans and 20% of Iraq War Veterans (United States Department of Veterans Affairs, 2012).

Tips for Professionals Who Work with Students with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder:


Allow preferential seating for the student. For example, a student may choose to sit near a door or back of the class.

Allow student to take a short break during class. 

Include “trigger warnings” on course syllabi for material that could be traumatic.

Inform student before darkening a room, for example, to show a video.

Allow student to be excused from assignments that involve sharing personal experiences.

Provide structure. Grading rubrics are helpful.

Encourage student to use resources such as K-State’s Veterans Center or the Student Access Center. Be aware that veterans are cautious to disclose any disability. To do so is a sign of “weakness”. They are new to their disabilities.

Safety Concerns

Loud noises, such as a fire alarm, can increase confusion or anxiety. It may be helpful to review evacuation procedures ahead of time (this may also be helpful to all students).


U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs - What is PTSD

Accommodating Student Veterans with Traumatic Brain injury and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: Tips for Campus Faculty and Staff (pdf)