Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often associated with war veterans. However, many people do not realize that a number of other events can cause PTSD.
It is a severe anxiety disorder that can come from a traumatic event involving extreme fear, especially if that fear produces feelings of helplessness. A natural disaster such as a hurricane can cause PTSD among survivors.
How PTSD Develops
While numerous traumatic events can trigger PTSD, some people develop the disorder following a traumatic event while others who experienced the same event will not. A number of factors can make a person more prone to developing PTSD.
Factors that increase a person’s risk for developing PTSD include the following:
- Genetic predisposition—those with a family history of PTSD are more likely to develop it following trauma
- A traumatic event that caused an extreme adrenaline response can alter brain chemistry, making people more susceptible to PTSD following trauma
- Not receiving treatment after trauma
- History of childhood abuse or neglect
- Having been the victim of bullying in school
- Having grown up in foster care
- Chronic adversity
- Ancestry: Hispanics are more likely to develop PTSD, while Japanese people are less likely
- Proximity to, severity and duration of trauma. All other factors being equal, being close to a dangerous event that lasts a long time will increase the chance of developing PTSD.
- Those who suffer more personalized trauma are more likely to develop PTSD. In other words, people who watch their homes being destroyed and lose all their belongings in a hurricane are more likely to develop PTSD than those who witness the event in a public place.
If you struggle with any of these factors, seek help immediately before dangerous symptoms dominate your life.
Symptoms of PTSD
The symptoms of PTSD include the following issues:
- Reliving the event. PTSD patients are often preoccupied with thoughts of the event, may experience flashbacks where they relive the event or they may have recurrent nightmares about the event
- Avoidance of situations that remind them of the event
- Increased startle response
- Generalized anxiety
- Social withdrawal and isolation
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Difficulty concentrating
According to the American Psychiatric Association, to qualify as PTSD these symptoms must persist for more than one month.
When untreated, the symptoms of PTSD can significantly reduce one’s quality of life and increase problems like depression, substance abuse and addiction, problems at work, unemployment, homelessness and suicide.
Professionals are still researching the nature of PTSD and the most effective methods of treatment. While there are a variety of treatment options available, the method that has proven most effective is cognitive behavioral therapy. With effective treatment patients with PTSD can learn to cope with the effects of the trauma, manage their symptoms, find peace of mind and return to a more normal and satisfying life.