Post-traumatic stress disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder entails an extreme response to severe stressors, including anxiety, avoidance behavior towards the stimuli associated with the trauma, and symptoms. Diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder are considered only in the context of a serious traumatic experience; the person must have experienced or witnessed an event that involves an actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violation. For example, war veterans, soldiers, rape victims, childbirth experiences, and physical assault are some of the experiences that can lead to PTSD.

Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms are grouped into four major categories:

Intrusively re-experiencing the traumatic event: The person may have repetitive memories or nightmares of the event. Any stimuli from the environment can make them upset and trigger the traumatic memories. For example, a helicopter sound can trigger and remind a soldier from the battle field. Some people will remember only fragments of the event.

Avoidance of stimuli associated with the traumatic event: The person may try to avoid all that reminds them of the traumatic event. For example, a person might stop driving after an accident or near-death experience on the road.

Change in their mood and thought process: Negative thought process, blaming themselves or others for the event, pervasive negative emotion, low or lack of interest in essential activities, feeling isolated from others, and inability to be optimistic about different circumstances.

Increased arousal and reactivity: These symptoms include being easily irritable, anger outbursts, aggressive behavior, self-destructive behavior, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, difficulty concentrating, hypervigilance, and startle responses.

All these symptoms begin or worsen since the day of the trauma and last 3–31 days. There is specified criteria for the number of symptoms that should be persistent in an individual to be diagnosed with PTSD.

According to research studies, PTSD is highly co-morbid with other mental health conditions such as anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, substance abuse, and conduct disorder.


Psychological, physical, and social factors are involved in causing PTSD. The traumatic event affects the individual’s physiological and psychological responses. The stress hormones and chemicals that carry information in the neural pathways can be severely affected. People who have suffered childhood abuse or trauma are more likely to develop the disorder; in some cases, it develops months or years after the trauma.

Environmental factors also play a major role in contributing to the causal factor. Early childhood experiences such as dysfunctional families, childhood adversity, family history of mental illness, sexual or physical assault—all such experiences can increase the risk of developing the disorder in the early or later stages of life. The greater the magnitude of the problem, the greater the risk for PTSD. Negative ways of coping, a lack of social support or family, and financial instability can worsen the symptoms and outcome of the disorder.

Treatment of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Medications: Based on the severity and intensity of the disorder, the individual can be prescribed medication by a psychiatrist. In some cases, relapse is common if the medications are discontinued.

Psychological Treatment

Exposure Therapy: In PTSD, the main aim of exposure therapy is to encourage the individual to confront the traumatic event they experienced so that they can gain mastery and eradicate the anxiety. In some cases, the individual is directly exposed, and in other cases, they are asked to imagine the event. Therapists also use virtual reality technology to treat PTSD, as technology can provide vivid exposure. Exposure therapy has been proven to be an effective therapy to treat PTSD. The treatment process is particularly difficult and requires more time because exposure therapy can be hard for both the client and the therapist as it requires intense contact with the traumatizing events. In the initial stages, the symptoms can be significantly enhanced. In some cases, the combination of medications and therapy is seen as effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder.

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