What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? PTSD

Trauma is when a person goes through a terrifying event and it haunts them for a long time. They can’t get out of such a state of mind and they relive such experience over and over again in their mind. Today, we’ll discuss what is post-traumatic stress disorder; its types, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and FAQs. 

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? 

Witnessing or experiencing a horrifying event triggers PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and it’s a mental health condition. Some of the common signs after the event is uncontrollable thoughts, severe anxiety, nightmare, and flashbacks. 

People that have faced and experienced a traumatic event find it very difficult to manage the whole thing. But if they focus on self-care and give it time, they could become better. However, if things aren’t getting and causing interference in the daily operations of your life, then it means you have PTSD. 

People with PTSD feel stressed or fearful even when they’re in a safe place. According to an estimate by National Center for PTSD, 12% of Gulf War and 15% of Vietnam War veterans have experienced PTSD. 

If you take good care of resolving the symptoms of PTSD, then it would help you to decrease the symptoms and get your life back on track. 

Types of PTSD

PTSD is a very broad mental health condition. Therefore, psychologists have divided it based on its various symptoms, so that it becomes easier to diagnose and treat the condition. 

  • ASD (Acute Stress Disorder): it’s not exactly PTSD. In fact, it’s a group of symptoms that a person exhibits within a month after the traumatic event like avoidance and anxiety. People with ASD exhibit PTSD later. 
  • Dissociative PTSD: it is when you separate and detach yourself from the traumatic event as it happened outside of your body, and not to you. 
  • Uncomplicated PTSD: when a person is only exhibiting the symptoms of PTSD like avoiding people or visiting the traumatic event place and reliving the experience. You aren’t feeling any other mental health condition like depression or anxiety. You can easily treat uncomplicated PTSD patients. 
  • Comorbid PTSD: here a person shows symptoms of PTSD along with other mental health issues like substance abuse, panic disorder, or depression. The treatment offers the best results for both mental health and PTSD symptoms. 
  • Derealization: here a person separates himself from experiences and people both emotionally and physically. Such people find it difficult to comprehend the reality of their surroundings. 
  • Delayed Expression: it doesn’t fall under the category of PTSD. The person exhibits symptoms after six months of the traumatic event. 

Complex PTSD

Many events could cause and trigger PTSD like years of neglect, human trafficking, physical/sexual abuse, car accident, or violent attack. However, complex trauma is a different relevant term that outlines the unintended emotional impact of long-term, multiple, or continued trauma. 

Chronic trauma is more dangerous than a single traumatic event; it could damage a person psychologically. Many psychologists and professionals have had a debate in setting up diagnostic standards for complex PTSD. People with complex PTSD exhibit more symptoms than typical PTSD like negative self-perception and uncontrollable thoughts. 

PTSD in Children 

Children have a resilient nature and they fight back from the traumatic event. Sometimes, they relive the traumatic experience continuously over time and exhibit the symptoms of PTSD. Some of the common symptoms of PTSD among children are as follows; 

  • Consistent negative thoughts 
  • Ignoring places and people relevant to the traumatic event
  • Find it difficult to control anger
  • Continued sadness and fear
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Nightmare 

Medication and CBT are very good treatments for children with PTSD symptoms. Such children need special care and attention from their friends, teachers, and children in order to make them feel safe. 

PTSD & Depression 

PTSD and depression work in combination and the high depression rate increases the chances of PTSD. Sometimes, their symptoms overlap and it becomes difficult to identify what is causing what. Some of the common symptoms in depression and PTSD are as follows; 

  • Difficulty in sleeping 
  • Losing interest in many activities 
  • Outburst emotionally 

Professionals use the same treatment for PTSD and depression. 

PTSD Dreams 

When a person has PTSD, then it’s difficult for him to sleep and have some rest. People that have been through intense traumatic experiences, find it troubling to go to sleep especially at night. Even if you fall into sleep, then you would have a nightmare of the traumatic event. It’s higher among PTSD patients than those without the condition.  

According to a study conducted by National Center for PTSD, it showed that 3% of civilians have nightmares comparatively 52% of Vietnam veterans have faced nightmares frequently. 

PTSD bad dreams are actually the replication of the nightmares. They are more upsetting and vivid than typical bad dreams and they occur a few times within a week. 

PTSD in Teens 

The teen years are an emotionally challenging time for the new adult person. But it’s equally difficult to face a traumatic event and process it. However, teens exhibit the symptoms of PTSD in the form of irritable and aggressive behavior. When it happens, then they use alcohol, drugs, and other risky activities to deal with symptoms. 

Teens are often reluctant to share their emotions and feelings. Medication, antidepressants, and CBT are effective treatments for teens. 

Symptoms of PTSD 

PTSD disturbs the various function of your routine life. Certain situations, sounds, and words would become the trigger points of the traumatic event. Some of the main symptoms of PTSD in categories are as follows; 


  • Intense physical or mental stress where you think about the traumatic event all the time
  • Nightmare of the traumatic event frequently 
  • Unpleasant and vivid memories 
  • Reliving the event and flashbacks 


As the name implies, here you ignore visiting places, meeting people, or thinking of the situation that refers to the traumatic event. 

Reactivity & Arousal 

  • Anger 
  • Irritability 
  • Feelings of being on edge constantly 
  • Surprising and exaggerated reaction to a small thing 
  • Difficult to focus and concentrate 

Cognition & Mood 

  • Losing interest in activities that you used to like 
  • Difficult to keep in mind various elements of the event 
  • Blaming, worry, or twisted feeling of guilt
  • Feeling negative about yourself 

PTSD would also cause some people to experience panic attacks and depression. Some of the symptoms of panic attacks are as follows; 

  • Headaches 
  • Pounding or racing heartbeat 
  • Fainting 
  • Lightheadedness 
  • Dizziness 
  • Excitability 
  • Agitation 

Symptoms in Women 

According to a study by APA (American Psychiatric Association), women have the double chances of getting PTSD as men. However, they exhibit some different symptoms and they’re as follows; 

  • Easily reminding of the traumatic event and sensitive towards it
  • Easily surprised 
  • No emotions and feeling numb 
  • Feeling depressed and anxious 

The symptoms among females tend to last longer than males. Usually, men consult professionals within one year of the traumatic event, and women wait four years. 

Symptoms in Men 

Some of the common symptoms among men are as follows; 

  • Arousal concern 
  • Mood swings 
  • Cognitive issues 
  • Avoidance 
  • Re-experiencing and reliving 

The symptoms take a few months to start exhibiting after the traumatic event. The symptoms are different in various people based on their different biology. 

Causes of PTSD

PTSD symptoms appear among those people that witnessed traumatic events in life like assault, abuse, military combat, war, or natural disaster. A vast majority of people don’t exhibit any of the symptoms, but some people do. 

The traumatic experience causes some changes in the brain. According to a study conducted in 2018, the size of the hippocampus is smaller among PTSD people. It’s the area of the brain that deals with emotions and memory. 

Psychologists and other researchers are still studying whether traumatic events cause the size of the hippocampus to shrink, or it had already been smaller. Another research says that the stress hormones have an abnormal level/size among people with PTSD, which activate the fight or flight response. 

Medical PTSD

Violence or natural disaster could be life-threatening emergency situations. Studies have shown that 1 in 8 develops symptoms of PTSD after having a heart attack. A small surgery or illness could make some people sad and they develop symptoms of PTSD. 

If you’re still reliving the traumatic experience, then you have PTSD, and it makes you feel unsafe even after the danger is over. You should consult a healthcare professional if symptoms last more than a week. 

Postpartum PTSD

Usually, childbirth is a happy and joyful occasion, but it’s a very challenging experience for some moms. According to a study conducted in 2018, it showed that 4% of mothers develop PTSD after childbirth. The risk of postpartum PTSD is higher among people if; 

  • Don’t have a supportive social network 
  • Bad experience with the previous pregnancy 
  • Scared of childbirth 
  • Have depression 

If you have PTSD, then it becomes very difficult for you to take care of the newborn baby. 

Diagnosis of PTSD

There is no precise method or test to diagnose the PTSD condition. That’s why it’s very difficult to diagnose people with this disorder because they would feel hesitant to discuss the symptoms of the traumatic event. 

Usually, mental health professionals like psychiatric nurse practitioners, psychologists, or psychiatrists are best in the position to diagnose PTSD. In order to diagnose someone with PTSD, one must experience the following symptoms within a month; 

  • Mood swings and cognitive issues at least twice
  • Reactivity and arousal issue at least twice 
  • Avoidance issue at least once 
  • Reliving experiences at least once 

Treatment of PTSD 

If you have PTSD after being diagnosed with PTSD, then your therapist would suggest medication or therapy, or both. Talk therapy or CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) would persuade you to talk about the traumatic event and detach the negative thoughts from it. 

In exposure therapy, the therapist would make the patient relive the trauma in a controlled and safe environment. It helps people to desensitize the traumatic event and lower its symptoms. However, they usually prescribe anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drugs. 


Living with someone facing PTSD

PTSD not only impacts those people that have experienced the traumatic event, but it also impacts the surrounded people. If you learn about PTSD, then you can treat your loved ones better. You should consider joining the support group of those that are living with PTSD; they can offer you very useful tips. Make sure that your loved one is getting medication and therapy. 

You should accept the fact that living with someone that has PTSD is difficult. You should also consult a therapist to deal with your personal issues like worry, anger, and frustration. 

How common is PTSD

According to a study conducted by National Center for PTSD, 60% of the men and half of the women go through a traumatic event at some point in their life. Not every person that has faced trauma would also experience PTSD. 

A study conducted in 2017 showed that 5% of men and 10% of women develop PTSD during their lifetime. The risk of developing PTSD among women is twice that of men. 

Prevention from PTSD

There is no method or technique to prevent you from facing the traumatic event that would lead you to develop PTSD. If you have been through a traumatic event, then you can protect yourself from developing PTSD by joining the support group and discussing it with a trusted person. 

You should reframe your mind after going through the traumatic event. Like you’re not a victim, you’re a survivor. If you help other people, then it can help you to heal your traumatic life wounds. 

Complication with PTSD

PTSD could disrupt every function in your life ranging from your personal life, relationships, and work-life. It increases the following symptoms; 

  • Suicidal thoughts 
  • Stress and anxiety 
  • Depression 
  • Turning into drugs and alcohol 
  • Substance abuse 

Drugs offer you relief temporarily, but it doesn’t solve the main cause of the problem in the long term. In fact, the symptoms would aggravate later. 

Who gets PTSD?

People that have been through traumatic events like war, natural disaster, abuse, rape, murder, violence, or attack would potentially experience PTSD. It’s not certain that all of them would face it, some do and the others won’t. 

When to get help 

If you have negative thoughts, are unable to take any actions, have suicidal thoughts, or feeling unsafe in a safe environment, then you should consult a professional in order to get some help. 

Conclusion: What is post-traumatic stress disorder? PTSD

After an in-depth study of what is post-traumatic stress disorder, its types, causes, symptoms, and treatment, we’ve realized that PTSD is very dangerous and could damage a person psychologically. If you’re facing any of the abovementioned symptoms, then you should reach out to the nearest therapist.