Causes of PTSD

In any given year, about 5.2 million adults have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

Each person with PTSD is different. They are of different ages, different races, different backgrounds, and different belief systems. They all may have come to mental illness via different routes, too, but they all share common risks factors and vulnerabilities that lead them to a PTSD diagnosis. These are just a few of those shared factors.

Exposure to Trauma

PTSD isn’t a disorder that comes out of the blue. Instead, this is a mental illness that forms in the aftermath of an incident that’s somehow overwhelming and/or terrifying.

For some, that event comes during a war. These people may participate in the war or be a witness to something that takes place during war-related combat. For others, that event involves a criminal act, such as a kidnapping or a rape. For others, that event comes as part of an accident.

Any impactful event could, in theory, cause PTSD changes, but the most damaging incidents cause a feeling of helplessness. People in these situations are aware that something awful is happening, and they feel powerless to step in and somehow stop the damage.

The National Institute of Mental Health says signs of PTSD can appear right after an event like this takes place. But some people find that their symptoms intensify or change months or even years later.


While events are at the center of PTSD, not everyone who goes through something traumatic develops signs of this mental health disorder. Those who do might have generic vulnerabilities that leave them exposed when something horrible happens.Mayo Clinic suggests that some of these genetic risks can manifest with other mental illnesses. People who have one form of mental illness might be at risk of developing PTSD too, and inherited personality traits might also play a role. People who are naturally introverted and contemplative might not discuss their issues or easily forget their troubles, for example, and that could leave them at risk for PTSD after a trauma.

Improper Help

In the days following an overwhelming and serious incident, people need the opportunity to:

  • Revisit the trauma in detail
  • Grieve for the losses they endured
  • Obtain a sense of forgiveness for decisions made
  • Put the terror behind them

Often, this involves mental health counseling. A professional can help people recovering from trauma to look closely at the incident in an objective fashion, and that professional might be instrumental in helping the person to understand that decisions made in the past can’t be altered in the present. People who get this kind of help might be able to move past the trauma quickly.

Those who don’t get this kind of help and who try to suppress the memories or bury them could develop PTSD in time. The pain just must be worked through, and if the person won’t do it consciously, the unconscious will take over.

Thankfully, this help can be provided long after the incident has taken place. That’s what PTSD therapies are designed to do. Here, people can objectively examine the incident and come to a new understanding. If you’d like to know more about this kind of therapy, please call.

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