Mya Care Blogger 16 May 2023

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD, is a highly prevalent mental health condition in recent times. PTSD was previously known as “shell shock” and was first discovered in people who survived World Wars I and II, especially among military personnel. Statistics show that 6 out of 100 people are bound to experience some form of PTSD in their lifetime. In this article, we will discuss this psychological disorder, its signs, and treatments in detail.

What Is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a type of psychiatric or mental health disorder that develops in people after they have witnessed or experienced some form of stress, trauma, or distress. It is associated with anxiety disorders as it affects emotions and can progress to altering one’s overall physical, mental, and social well-being. A healthy person is structured to experience some form of distress or difficulty adjusting to everyday life after experiencing trauma.

Still, when such feelings intensify and persist long after the event, PTSD could develop. The emotions often expressed by those with PTSD range from fear to anger to guilt and, in some cases, sadness. One prominent feature of this disorder is the intense and disturbing feelings it brings, which could result in reliving[1] [2]  traumatic events either through nightmares or flashbacks. Specific triggers also spark adverse reactions in these individuals.

However, it is essential to note that you cannot be diagnosed with PTSD if you have not been exposed to or experienced any traumatic event. As the name implies, it is a “post-trauma” disorder. Also, not everyone who has gone through some form of trauma is bound to develop the disorder.

Risk Factors for PTSD

Almost anyone can experience PTSD. It is not limited to any race, gender, background, or age. However, here are some factors that could increase the chances of a person developing PTSD:

1. Family History of Mental Health Disorders

If a member of your family or a close relative has a history of a psychiatric condition, it increases your risk of developing some form of PTSD after experiencing trauma or a distressing situation. In most cases, this could manifest in addition to symptoms of other mental health problems.

2. Presence of an Underlying Mental Health Disorder

If you experience some form of trauma while diagnosed with or undergoing treatment for an underlying mental health condition, it predisposes you to develop PTSD afterward.

3. Experience of Abuse as a Child

Most traumatic events people experience happen when they are younger. Child abuse could be sexual, due to physical neglect, or lack of social support. Such forms of abuse can lead to signs of PTSD from those childhood memories, especially after facing triggering situations.

4. Personality Traits

Often, people who go on to develop PTSD have features such as bad temperament, feeling hopeless, or other personality traits related to the signs of the disorder. However, these indicative traits, which can manifest as PTSD when they intensify, may not be caught early enough.

5. Substance Abuse Disorder

The misuse of drugs and alcohol can alter body chemistry and also increase the risk of developing PTSD. Therefore, if you experience a distressing situation, the body might struggle to function normally without depending on such substances.

6. Stressful Work Environment

Another common trigger of PTSD is work-related stress. Most people who have PTSD reportedly work long hours or tasking jobs. Working jobs that come with high physical and mental demands can put a strain on the body’s response to stressful conditions.

7. Lack of a Good Support System

The absence of social support can also put one at risk of developing PTSD. It often arises from feelings of loneliness and an inability to trust people in your social environment.

Causes of PTSD

Several incidents could trigger the development of PTSD in a person. Notably, this condition does not occur without an underlying incident experienced or witnessed. Some of them include:

  • A fatal accident, such as a road accident, or a plane crash
  • Neglect
  • Stressful experiences such as a terrorist attack, robbery, or kidnapping
  • Personal attacks involving weapons which could be in the form of torture
  • Natural disasters
  • Domestic violence
  • Imbalance in how the brain regulates chemicals and hormones that reduce bodily stress.
  • Sexual abuse
  • Life-threatening health problems

It is noteworthy, though, that not everyone who has undergone such experiences develops this condition, and there is still no explanation as to why some do and some do not.

Symptoms of PTSD

As stated earlier, this condition is well-known to cause intense flashbacks and nightmares, resulting in difficulty sleeping at night and concentrating during the day. Severe anxiety is also a significant symptom associated with this disorder. Panic attacks and hallucinating are also common with this disorder but can be mistaken for the other psychiatric conditions they are specific to.

The onset of PTSD can be noticed as early as a few weeks after or, in some cases, years after the event. The symptoms of this disorder vary from one person to another as it manifests in different ways, but generally, they are similar and can be categorized. This means an individual might show one or more signs under each category of symptoms described below. 

Intrusive thoughts

  • Reoccurring memories of the incident responsible for trauma that arise involuntarily
  • Recurrent flashbacks as if the event is happening right in front of them again
  • Nightmares
  • Emotional distress


  • Refusing to talk or think about the incident with others
  • Avoiding activities, people, or places that trigger memories of the traumatic event
  • Disassociation from others to avoid expressing your feelings

Altered Mood and Thinking

  • Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, shame, anger, or fear
  • Negative thoughts, which could be suicidal
  • A distorted view of oneself and those around you
  • Paranoia about other people and the world
  • Partial loss of memory, especially concerning essential details about the event
  • Detachment from friends and families
  • Reduced level of engagement in activities that used to be of interest
  • Feeling numb emotionally, which could result in difficulty expressing positive emotions like happiness and satisfaction.

Changes in Physical and Emotional Reactions to Situations

  • Becoming irritable
  • Being startled or scared easily
  • Behaving recklessly, which results in engaging in self-destructive acts
  • Feelings of suspicion or paranoia in one’s surrounding
  • Difficulty with concentration and sleep
  • Outbursts of anger and expressing aggression

It is important to note that it is only when these symptoms have persisted for more than a month and begun to affect everyday functioning that a person can be said to have developed PTSD.

Also, there must have been previous exposure to traumatic events for PTSD to be diagnosed, which means anyone experiencing symptoms related to the disorder without a history of trauma should be checked for other conditions. The symptoms of PTSD can persist for several months to several years; even when they stop, exposure to any trigger can result in a relapse.

Complications Associated with PTSD

Over time, especially without medical help or intervention, PTSD could result in other physical and mental health-related conditions or, in extreme cases, death from self-harm. Some of the complications that come with PTSD include:

  • Eating disorders - either binge eating or starving oneself
  • Drugs or alcohol abuse
  • Short-term or Long-term memory loss
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Suicidal attempts

Conditions Related to PTSD

A few other disorders can be similar in manifestation to PTSD. They can be confused for PTSD if a proper assessment is not done. A few of them are described below:

Adjustment Disorder

This occurs due to accumulated stress from one’s way of life or experiencing very stressful events. School and work are the common triggers of adjustment disorder. In a few cases, it could result from a painful romantic breakup, a terminal illness like cancer or a disability, or even a natural disaster. It presents with severe behavioral and emotional changes in response to stressors unlikely to fuel such reactions.

Feeling tensed, social withdrawal, impulsive behavior, sadness and hopelessness, tremors, palpitations, and persistent migraines are all symptoms of this disorder. These signs manifest within three months of the life event. One significant difference between this disorder and PTSD is that the moment the stressors are removed or the event’s consequences end, the symptoms stop after a maximum of 6 months.

Acute Stress Disorder

This disorder is also a reaction to a traumatic event similar to PTSD. It presents with similar symptoms, such as flashbacks reliving the trauma, nightmares, numbness, and detachment, which affect daily life.

However, acute stress disorder symptoms begin to show a few days immediately after the event, unlike PTSD, which takes months. Although, approximately half of those with PTSD experienced acute stress disorder after the trauma. It is prevalent in those who experienced assault, domestic violence, or rape.

Reactive Attachment Disorder

This disorder manifests in children who have been severely neglected or deprived of care in their formative years before age 5. Children who repeatedly experience changes in foster care are prone to this condition as they cannot form stable attachments. Reactive attachment disorder presents symptoms such as emotional withdrawal from adult caregivers, fear, sadness, and not responding to comfort, support, or protection. Children who suffer from abuse or assault during this period could later develop PTSD. Due to how early in life this disorder occurs, it could result in cognitive delays involving speech and social interaction.

Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder

This rare disorder also occurs in children who have been socially neglected before age 2. It is similar in terms of symptoms and causes to reactive attachment disorder. However, with disinhibited social engagement disorder, the child could become overfamiliar with even strange adults without hesitating. It could also lead to developmental delays, but with improved and stable quality of care, the symptoms could go away since it manifests very early in life.

All of the above disorders can be treated with psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, and, for children, providing quality care that forms an emotional attachment.

Treatment of PTSD

PTSD is treatable even though it is a long-term disorder. However, if medical help is sought as soon as the symptoms of the disorder start to show, recovery is faster. It is important to note that not everyone that has developed PTSD needs psychiatric treatment, as some symptoms disappear over time naturally. Individuals sometimes need a good support system from friends and families to recover.

Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals diagnose PTSD and can use several effective means to help those affected. Generally, psychotherapy is used to treat this disorder, but there are other treatment options, such as:

Use of Antidepressants

SSRIs and SNRIs are often used to treat the significant symptoms of PTSD and also enable the individual to participate better and benefit from therapy. They cannot be used alone but must be accompanied by other treatments.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This can be in the form of prolonged exposure therapy, cognitive processing therapy, group therapy, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), depending on which the psychiatrist deems suitable for the individual.

Complementary and Alternative Therapy

This includes using activities such as yoga, acupuncture, and even animal-assisted therapy to help individuals with PTSD.

Prevention of PTSD

As stated earlier, not everyone who has undergone trauma will develop PTSD; preventive measures can be limited. It is essential to seek help as soon as possible after undergoing a traumatic experience. Victims often struggle to talk about the whole experience due to fear, anger, anxiety, and guilt. However, it is essential to get help and provide the needed support so that they do not develop symptoms or complications of PTSD.


In summary, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a challenging mental health condition that has profound and long-lasting effects on the individuals who experience it. People with PTSD show various symptoms, as described earlier, such as emotional distress, intrusive thoughts, avoidance behavior, or heightened reactivity, to name a few.

Most importantly, it is vital to seek medical help when such symptoms become apparent and persistent. Understanding how far-reaching the effects of PTSD can be will help you show support and care to those affected. The prognosis is good with proper treatment; those who develop it can return to everyday life.

To search for the best Psychiatry doctors worldwide, please use the Mya Care search engine.

To search for the best doctors and healthcare providers worldwide, please use the Mya Care search engine.


Disclaimer: Please note that Mya Care does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information provided is not intended to replace the care or advice of a qualified health care professional. The views expressed are personal views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Mya Care. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen. Do not reproduce, copy, reformat, publish, distribute, upload, post, transmit, transfer in any manner or sell any of the materials in this blog without prior written permission from