Posttraumatic stress disorder

What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that sometimes occurs in people who have experienced a particularly disturbing event or series of events. Post-traumatic stress disorder can happen to anyone. People who have experienced combat, a car accident, a near-death experience, assault, a natural disaster, and other traumatic experiences can develop post-traumatic stress disorder.

What Causes PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder occurs in 1 out of 3 people who experience a traumatising event. Certain events that can contribute to PTSD include:

  • Personal assaults including violent attacks, sexual assault, and robbery
  • Engaging in war or active combat
  • Serious car crashes
  • Experiencing a plane crash
  • Prolonged sexual abuse
  • Being a witness to a violent death
  • Natural disasters including hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and floods
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Being held hostage
  • Unexpected death or severe injury of a friend or loved one

Post-traumatic stress disorder is not typically related to “normal” upsetting events such as a break-up, divorce, or loss of a job. Events that trigger PTSD are usually extremely frightening, stressful, or disturbing. Post-traumatic stress disorder can also occur when someone has been subjected to extended periods of abuse.


Symptoms of PTSD can start soon after the event has taken place, but often signs won’t occur for months or even years afterwards. Experiencing the following symptoms on a regular basis for longer than four weeks and feeling extreme distress that impedes a person’s job, education, or personal relationships can be an indication of PTSD:

  • Reliving the event over and over again in the mind. People may have nightmares or flashbacks of the event that took place.
  • Being plagued with negative feelings about yourself and life in general
  • Always feeling jittery, nervous, or anxious
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Experiencing mood swings
  • Self-medicating with drugs or alcohol to escape from negative feelings


People can overcome post-traumatic stress disorder, and it is not something they need to live with forever. Treatment for PTSD usually involves psychotherapy and medication. Each may be used alone or in conjunction with the other.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is used widely with people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, as it allows them to better understand how the trauma has changed them. It also changes people how to think differently about their trauma in order to change their thoughts towards it.

Prolonged exposure has also shown to a beneficial form of treatment for people who suffer from PTSD. This therapy involves talking about the trauma repeatedly until it no longer triggers upsetting memories or emotions.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Statistics

  • 1 out of 3 rape victims will develop PTSD
  • 1 out of 2 victims of sexual assault get PTSD
  • More than 50 percent of people who suffer from PTSD will develop a dependency to alcohol
  • Nicotine dependency is twice as high amongst people with PTSD compared to the regular population
  • 35 percent of people with PTSD will abuse prescription drugs
  • The most common problem amongst people with PTSD is interpersonal relationships

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder FAQ

What types of problems do people with post-traumatic stress disorder typically experience?

Common problems that occur in people with PTSD can include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Problems at work or school
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Relationship problems
  • Drug and alcohol problems

Is there a certain type of person that develops PTSD?

No. Anyone, regardless of age, gender, or race can develop post-traumatic stress disorder. A person who receives social support after the traumatic event is less likely to develop PTSD than a person who has none. Periods of stress after the event can also increase the likelihood PTSD will develop.

External Links

PTSD: National Center for PTSD

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, NIH

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – Causes, NHS Choices

Interesting PTSD statistics, Barends Psychology Practice

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