Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition triggered by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. While it’s normal to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation, people with PTSD may experience intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings long after the event has ended. This article delves into the intricacies of PTSD, exploring its symptoms, causes, treatments, and more.

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in individuals who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape, or other violent personal assaults. People with PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they are not in danger.

Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Intrusive Thoughts

One of the primary symptoms of PTSD is intrusive thoughts. These are involuntary memories, flashbacks, or nightmares about the traumatic event. They can be so vivid that the individual feels like they are reliving the experience.


People with PTSD often exhibit avoidance behaviors. This includes staying away from places, events, or objects that remind them of the traumatic experience. They may also avoid talking about what happened or how they feel about it.

Negative Changes in Thinking and Mood

PTSD can cause significant negative alterations in cognition and mood. Individuals may experience feelings of hopelessness, memory problems, and difficulty maintaining close relationships. They might also lose interest in activities they once enjoyed.

Changes in Physical and Emotional Reactions

Known as arousal and reactivity symptoms, these can include being easily startled, feeling tense or “on edge”, having difficulty sleeping, and experiencing angry outbursts. These symptoms are usually constant and can make the individual feel continually stressed and angry.

Causes and Risk Factors

Traumatic Events

The primary cause of PTSD is exposure to a traumatic event. This can be a one-time event, such as an accident, or ongoing, such as childhood abuse. The severity, proximity, and duration of the traumatic event can impact the likelihood of developing PTSD.

Personal Factors

Certain personal factors can increase the risk of developing PTSD. These include genetics, pre-existing mental health conditions, and the individual’s neurobiology. Women are more likely to develop PTSD than men, possibly due to a higher likelihood of experiencing interpersonal violence.

Lack of Support

A strong support system is crucial for recovery from trauma. Individuals without a solid support network of family and friends are at a higher risk for developing PTSD.

Diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Diagnosing PTSD involves a comprehensive evaluation by a mental health professional. This typically includes a detailed discussion of symptoms and their impact on daily life. There are also specific criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) that must be met for a diagnosis of PTSD.

Treatment Options


Psychotherapy is a cornerstone of PTSD treatment. Different types of therapy can help, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Focuses on changing negative thought patterns.
  • Exposure Therapy: Helps individuals face and control their fear by exposing them to the trauma in a safe way.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): Involves processing the trauma while focusing on external stimuli like eye movements.


Medications can also be effective in managing PTSD symptoms. Antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly prescribed. Other medications may be used to treat specific symptoms like anxiety or insomnia.

Self-Help and Coping Strategies

Individuals with PTSD can benefit from various self-help strategies, including:

  • Exercise: Regular physical activity can help reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Mindfulness and Meditation: Practices that focus on being present can help manage PTSD symptoms.
  • Support Groups: Connecting with others who have PTSD can provide a sense of community and understanding.

Myths and Misconceptions about PTSD

There are many myths and misconceptions about PTSD that can lead to stigma and misunderstanding. Some common myths include:

  • Myth: PTSD only affects military veterans.
  • Fact: While veterans are at high risk, PTSD can affect anyone who has experienced trauma.
  • Myth: People with PTSD are weak.
  • Fact: PTSD is a mental health condition that has nothing to do with personal strength.
  • Myth: PTSD is not treatable.
  • Fact: Many effective treatments are available, and people with PTSD can recover.


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a complex mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Understanding its symptoms, causes, and treatments is crucial for those affected and their loved ones. With proper support and treatment, individuals with PTSD can lead fulfilling lives. Continued research and innovative therapies promise to improve the future for those living with this challenging disorder.


Q1. Is PTSD considered a mental illness?
Yes, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness. It can develop after experiencing or witnessing something traumatic. Symptoms may appear immediately or may be delayed by weeks or months.

Q2. How does PTSD change a person?
PTSD symptoms generally fall into four categories: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions. These symptoms can vary over time and differ from person to person.

Q3. How do you tell someone you have PTSD?
Ask for the person’s undivided attention and ensure you won’t be disturbed. Share the basic facts about PTSD, including its commonality and the types of trauma that can lead to it. You can find these facts in our online resources.

Q4. How does a person with PTSD behave?
PTSD can affect a person’s ability to work, carry out daily activities, or maintain relationships with family and friends. Someone with PTSD might seem uninterested or distant as they try to avoid thinking or feeling to block out painful memories.

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