Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder


Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that some people experience after witnessing or living through a distressing or dangerous event.

Humans have a natural instinct to respond a certain way to a threat of danger, to either avoid harm or defend against harm. This response is usually called the ‘fight or flight’ or ‘acute stress response’.  Physically, someone may experience elevated heart rate, faster breathing, chest pressure, or increased sensory sensitivity.  In most cases, when the threat is removed, these symptoms will go away.  The difference for someone who is struggling with PTSD is that he or she experiences this acute stress reaction even when there is no present threat. PTSD was first identified during World War I, when soldiers were observed to suffer chronic anxiety, nightmares and flashbacks for weeks, months, or even years following combat.

Anyone of any age who has survived a distressing event or trauma can develop PTSD.  A trauma is an event considered to be outside the realm of ordinary experiences.



Traumas That can Trigger PTSD


  • Natural disasters (tornados, tidal waves)
  • Catastrophes that we have no control over, such as car and plane crashes
  • Being the victim of or witnessing a violent crime such as assault, rape, and murder
  • Being directly involved in a war
  • Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
  • Physical or emotional neglect
  • Chronic illness
  • Life threatening illness


Traumas can be sudden, such as a car crash, or chronic, such as repeated sexual abuse. Symptoms are usually more intense and longer lasting when the trauma is personal, as in rape or other violent crime.

One person may recover quickly from a trauma, while another person may experience lifelong damage. Why do some people handle trauma better than others?


Reasons Traumas Trigger PTSD


  • The relationship they have with the offender or crime
  • Previous trauma experience
  • Intelligence, cultural and religious values
  • The person’s ability to cope with stress before the trauma occurred
  • Rhe availability of support and resources
  • Family background
  • Biological predisposition
  • Temperment
  • Duration of the event
  • Age


The nature of the event also influences the person’s response to the trauma. For example, was the trauma shared by others as well or did the person experience it alone, was the trauma an isolated or chronic event, was the trauma socially acceptable or not.

If you or anyone you know has suffered a trauma and is not coping with it well, they might need to seek professional help.



Symptoms Of PTSD


  • Repetitive, distressing thoughts and/or nightmares about the event
  • Intense flashbacks as though reenacting the trauma
  • Attempts to avoid thoughts, feelings, events, or external situations associated with the trauma
  • Sense of foreshortened future
  • Restricted range of emotion
  • Emotional numbness
  • Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
  • Loss of interest in activities that used to give pleasure
  • Persistent symptoms of increased arousal such as:
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Concentrating
  • Startling easily
  • Hypervigalence
  • Irritability
  • Anger outbursts


These symptoms need to have persisted for at least one month. If symptoms occur for less than one month’s duration, a diagnosis of Acute Stress Disorder may be given. Adjustment Disorders are for people who have various distressing symptoms but do not meet the full criteria for either of these disorders.





Intensive psychotherapy to work through intense feelings of fear, loss and/or guilt surrounding the original traumatic event is typically the most effective means of treatment. Psychotherapy can also assist the victim in restoring a healthier belief system.


Other treatment options


  • Psychiatric evaluation for medication
  • Hypnosis
  • Family therapy
  • Grief counseling
  • Support groups



PTSD Clinicians