PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder)

PTSD (Posttramtic Stress Disorder) is the development of characteristic symptoms that occur following direct or indirect or exposure to a traumatic or terrifying event in which physical harm was threatened, witnessed, or actually experienced.

PTSD also can occur after the unexpected or violent death of a family member or close friend, or following serious harm or threat of death or injury to a loved one.

Studies show that PTSD occurs in one-fourteen percent of the population. It can be diagnosed at any age, and can occur as a sudden, short-term response (called acute stress disorder) or develop gradually and become chronic or persistent.

Most people with PTSD try to avoid any reminders or thoughts of the trauma. Despite this avoidance, they often re-experience the ordeal in the form of intense “flashbacks”, memories, nightmares, or frightening thoughts, especially when they’re re-exposed to events or objects that remind them of the trauma.

Survivor guilt (feelings of guilt having survived an event in which friends or family died) might also be a component of PTSD.

Causes of PTSD

Traumatic events that can cause PTSD include:

  • violent assaults such as rape
  • fire
  • physical or sexual abuse
  • senseless acts of violence (such as school or neighborhood shootings)
  • natural or manmade disasters
  • car accidents
  • military combat (this form of PTSD is sometimes called “shell shock”)
  • witnessing another go through these kinds of traumatic events
  • diagnoses of life-threatening medical illness
  • child abuse

Studies indicate that people with PTSD tend to have abnormal levels of key hormones involved in the stress response. For instance, research has shown they have lower than normal cortisol levels, and higher than normal epinephrine levels-all of which play an important role in the body’s “fight or flight” reaction to sudden stress. It’s known as “fight or flight” because that’s exactly what the body is preparing itself to do-to either fight off the dangers or run from it.

The severity and likelihood of developing PTSD varies according to the nature of the event, as well as individual factors such as social support, family history, childhood experiences, personality, and any existing mental health problems or stress.

Information taken from


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