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I haven’t actually been in a traumatic situation but I have witnessed one (a car accident in my case). I am having flashbacks, trouble sleeping, and am anxious all of the time. Could I have PTSD?
Absolutely. It is entirely possible that PTSD can be triggered not only in people who personally experience a traumatic event, but also in those who witness it. In fact, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) was updated in 2013 and the 5th version now recognizes witnessing a trauma as a sufficient trigger for PTSD. This may include witnessing an accident, as you have indicated, a natural disaster or physical abuse. This phenomenon has been seen in humans and animals alike. Researchers have found that rats emit ultrasonic vocalizations signifying distress when witnessing a fellow rat be shocked in a fear conditioning procedure, and that they also show vicarious fear behavior (freezing). Kim EJ, Kim ES, Covey E, Kim JJ. Social transmission of fear in rats: the role of 22-kHz ultrasonic distress vocalization. PLoS ONE. 2010;5:e15077. Atsak P, Orre M, Bakker P, Cerliani L, Roozendaal B, Gazzola V, Moita M, Keysers C. Experience modulates vicarious freezing in rats: a model for empathy. PLoS ONE. 2011;6:e21855. If you are experiencing PTSD symptoms, please see a doctor immediately. You can even visit our resources guide to find treatment centers in your area.