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PTSD What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur when a person experiences an unexpected traumatic event such as a natural disaster, life threat, terrorist act, gun violence, rape, sexual violence, or other physical assault. Post-traumatic stress disorder was formerly known as shellshock or battle fatigue syndrome since the disorder was first noticed in war veterans.

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

The following are the various symptoms of PTSD:

  • Fear of Recurrence of a Life-Threatening Event: This occurs when a person has witnessed a life-threatening incident and is constantly worried about the recurrence of that same event.
  • Remembering and Reliving: People with PTSD often relive the mishap or incident through their thoughts and memories. This recurrence of thoughts causes them to feel as though they are experiencing the traumatic event again.
  • Avoiding: This occurs when a person with PTSD tries to “forget” the trauma by avoiding the places, people, or situations that remind them of the traumatic event.
  • Mood Changes and Negative Thoughts: Sometimes the effects from the traumatic incident make the person vulnerable to negative and intrusive thoughts connected to guilt or self-blame.

What are the causes of PTSD?

The types of events that may cause PTSD are

  • Terror attacks
  • Combat in a war zone
  • Gun violence
  • Natural disasters
  • Physical or sexual assaults
  • Serious accidents or illness
  • Death of a loved one

Risk Factors for PTSD

  • Individual Temperament: Each individual has their own way of reacting to trauma or stress, which may be dependent on hormones released in a fight-or-flight situation.
  • Structure of the Brain: Brain scans of individuals with PTSD show that the part of the brain involved in processing memories and emotions appears different when compared to people without PTSD.
  • Gender: Women tend to have a higher risk of developing PTSD.

Diagnosis of PTSD

A diagnosis of PTSD will be made based on a detailed psychological evaluation of your symptoms and a specially designed interview. Your doctor may also perform a complete medical history, physical examination, and order lab tests to rule out other conditions that might be causing your symptoms. 

Treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

There are a number of treatments to reduce the symptoms of PTSD. Treatment may involve psychotherapy and medications.

Psychotherapy: This approach helps a patient to learn how to manage their symptoms and helps in assessing the severity of the disorder. The following are the various types of psychotherapy

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) - This therapy focuses on changing the thought processes and patterns that are associated with the traumatic event.
  • Prolonged Exposure Therapy - This therapy involves helping the patient to confront the cause of their fear in a controlled and safe environment.
  • Psychodynamic Therapy - This therapy involves removing the root cause of the trauma experienced by a patient.
  • Group Therapy- This therapy involves allowing a patient to share thoughts and issues with a group of people who have experienced similar traumatic events.
  • Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy - This is an experimental therapy that focuses on relieving the distress caused by the trauma by making specific side-to-side eye movements while recalling the traumatic event.


The various medications that may be prescribed to help treat PTSD include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) 
  • Tricyclic antidepressants 
  • Mood stabilizers 
  • Atypical antipsychotics