Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health problem that a person can develop after suffering or even simply seeing a traumatic or life-threatening event, such as a natural disaster, combat, sexual assault or a car accident. While the condition is hard to prevent in many cases, knowing what causes PTSD may be able to help you avoid situations that may cause you to develop it in the future.
What are the Symptoms?
It’s normal for people who have suffered a traumatic event to have nightmares, feel anxious or have trouble sleeping. Some people may also have trouble going about their usual activities. Many people, however, do start to feel better several weeks or months after the event. If they don’t, they may have PTSD.
PTSD symptoms tend to fall into four broad categories. The patient may experience hyperarousal, also known as hypervigilance, in which they are constantly on edge and alert for threats. The patient startles easily and is constantly scanning their surroundings.
In intrusion, the patient is reliving the event. They can have flashbacks. They also often have nightmares about the event. A traumatized child may play-act the event to express their fear.
A traumatized person may also develop avoidance behaviors that drive them to stay away from anything or anyone that might trigger memories of the event. PTSD also has negative impacts on the patient’s mood. They may feel guilt, shame or fear, or they may feel completely numb. The patient may lose interest in things they used to enjoy.
Can Children Get PTSD?
Yes. The symptoms vary depending on the child’s age. Children who are 12 and over generally develop symptoms similar to those of adults. They can show signs of anxiety, depression or withdrawal. They may also display reckless behavior, like running away from home or experimenting with drugs.
Children between the ages of 7 and 11 are most likely to re-enact the trauma in their play or stories. They may also draw pictures of things related to the trauma. Like older trauma victims, they can become irritable, aggressive and/or suffer nightmares. They may have trouble dealing with friends or schoolwork, and they may want to avoid school.
Children who are six and under will probably become fearful and clingy. They may panic if their parents aren’t nearby. Their behavior may regress in some areas. For example, they may start wetting the bed or have trouble with toilet training. They may also have trouble sleeping.
So What Causes PTSD?
A person develops PTSD after experiencing or seeing a traumatic event. The event has to be life-threatening or terrifying. Not all people who experience such events develop PTSD, however. The likelihood of somebody developing PTSD depends on a number of factors, including the following:
• How long the trauma lasted
• Whether or not somebody was killed or injured
• Previous history of mental health problems, like depression or anxiety
• Earlier traumas, like child abuse in the patient’s past
• The amount of support and help the patient receives after the trauma
Another factor is the degree of control the patient believes they had over the events. In other words, the more helpless someone felt during a trauma, the more likely they are to develop PTSD.
What Treatments are Available?
At Cady Wellness Institute in Newburgh, IN, our team of experts will work closely with you to come up with a plan of action for treating your PTSD. Contact our office today to schedule your consultation to learn more about what causes PTSD, as well as what treatment options are available.