The course of PTSD is often determined on when the person begins to experience symptoms.

Immediate Onset PTSD

  • Better response to treatment
  • Better prognosis (i.e., less severe symptoms)
  • Fewer associated symptoms or complications
  • Symptoms are resolved within 6 months

Delayed Onset PTSD

  • Associated symptoms and conditions develop
  • Condition more likely to become chronic
  • Possible repressed memories
  • Worse prognosis

People who experience trauma sometimes repress their memories of the event to avoid the pain of thinking about or remembering them. These so-called repressed memories sometimes resurface during therapy or may be triggered by something in everyday experience that reminds the patient of the traumatic event.

Working with repressed memories in therapy is controversial, because many therapists doubt their validity and accuracy. Repressed memories are typically retrieved during hypnosis, which many psychiatrists consider an unreliable tool for memory exploration.

About 50 percent of those who have acute onset of symptoms recover within 6 months. Roughly 30 percent develop chronic symptoms that may affect them for the rest of their lives. Others experience intermittent periods of symptom severity and remission.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 01 Feb 2001

Last Modified: 13 Feb 2015