Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (cont.)

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

What causes PTSD?

Virtually any trauma, defined as an event that is life-threatening or that severely compromises the physical or emotional well-being of an individual or causes intense fear, may cause PTSD. Such events often include either experiencing or witnessing a severe accident or physical injury, receiving a life-threatening medical diagnosis, being the victim of kidnapping or torture, exposure to war combat or to a natural disaster, exposure to other disaster (for example, plane crash) or terrorist attack, being the victim of rape, mugging, robbery, or assault, enduring physical, sexual, emotional, or other forms of abuse, as well as involvement in civil conflict. Although the diagnosis of PTSD currently requires that the sufferer has a history of experiencing a traumatic event as defined here, people may develop PTSD in reaction to events that may not qualify as traumatic but can be devastating life events like divorce or unemployment.

What are PTSD risk factors and protective factors?

Issues that tend to put people at higher risk for developing PTSD include increased duration of a traumatic event, higher number of traumatic events endured, higher severity of the trauma experienced, having an emotional condition prior to the event, or having little social support in the form of family or friends. In addition to those risk factors, children and adolescents, females, and people with learning disabilities or violence in the home seem to have a greater risk of developing PTSD after a traumatic event.

While disaster-preparedness training is generally seen as a good idea in terms of improving the immediate physical safety and logistical issues involved with a traumatic event, such training may also provide important preventive factors against developing PTSD. That is as evidenced by the fact that those with more professional-level training and experience (for example, police, firefighters, mental-health professionals, paramedics, and other medical professionals) tend to develop PTSD less often when coping with disaster than those without the benefit of such training or experience.

There are medications that have been found to help prevent the development of PTSD. Some medicines that treat depression, decrease the heart rate, or increase the action of other body chemicals are thought to be effective tools in the prevention of PTSD when given in the days immediately after an individual experiences a traumatic event.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/11/2014

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder - Effective Treatments Question: What kinds of treatments have been effective for your posttraumatic stress disorder?
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder - Symptoms Question: What symptoms did you experience with posttraumatic stress disorder?
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder - Causes Question: What was the cause of PTSD in you or someone you know?
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder - Coping Question: How do you cope with PTSD? What would you recommend to someone who is facing the challenges associated with PTSD?
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder - Diagnosis and Assessment Question: What types of tests or exams helped assess and later diagnose your PTSD?
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder - Getting Help Question: What group or organization has helped you or a loved one cope with PTSD?

STAY INFORMED

Get the Latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!