Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder found in individuals who have witnessed or experienced a terrifying or a life-threatening event, such as a serious accident, personal assault, or a natural disaster. However, not everyone diagnosed with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. Events, such as the death of a loved one, can also cause PTSD.
Individuals who have experienced traumatic event/s might exhibit feelings like fear, shock, anger, nervousness and guilt. These reactions usually go away over time, but for those with PTSD, these feelings continue and then gradually increase to such a level that they would prevent a person from living a normal life.
PTSD can happen to anyone cutting across age, gender, economic and social status. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 7.7 million Americans aged 18 years and above have PTSD. Compared to men, women are twice as likely to experience PTSD.
PTSD: Symptoms, causes and risk factors
Symptoms of PTSD can develop soon after the traumatic event. However, they might not surface for months or years. PTSD symptoms can vary in intensity and differ from person to person. As per the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), PTSD symptoms can be classified into four categories: re-experiencing symptoms, avoidance symptoms, arousal and reactive symptoms, and cognition and mood symptoms.
- Re-experiencing symptoms may cause problems in an individual’s routine and can include symptoms like frightening thoughts, bad dreams and flashbacks of trauma.
- Avoidance symptoms include things that remind individuals of a traumatic event. A person with PTSD might avoid thoughts or feelings related to a traumatic event and stay away from places or events that remind of the trauma.
- Arousal and reactive symptoms are usually constant and can make a person feel stressed or angry. These include feeling tensed, being easily startled and angry outbursts.
- Cognition and mood symptoms can begin or deteriorate after the traumatic event. Some of these signs include trouble remembering key features of traumatic event, negative thoughts about oneself and the world and loss of interest in enjoyable activities.
PTSD can be caused by a combination of factors. Some of the causes and risk factors for PTSD are:
- personality factors
- stressful experiences
- inherited mental health risks
- brain response to stressful events