Signs & Effects of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Red River Hospital helps individuals struggling with PTSD build a strong foundation for long-term recovery. Serving Wichita Falls, TX, Red River is the leading provider of PTSD treatment.

Understanding PTSD

Learn about PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness that develops after an individual has been exposed to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. When a traumatic event occurs, you think that your life or the life of others are in danger. This may cause you to feel extremely afraid and like you have no control over what is happening around you. While most people will have some sort of stress-related reactions after a traumatic event not everyone will develop PTSD. Those who do develop PTSD will experience fear and sadness at such an extent that it begins to interfere with their ability to function appropriately on a daily basis. These people begin to experience things such as vivid flashbacks of the event, causing them to feel as if they are reliving it, or feeling a heightened sense of awareness that causes the development of severe anxiety since they tend to feel like they are in a constant state of danger.

While not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will go on to develop PTSD, the disorder can affect people of all ages and ethnicities. The development of PTSD will present differently in each person, with some people experiencing symptoms immediately following the event while others may not suffer from symptoms until weeks, months, or sometimes even years after the event occurred. Any situation that causes someone to feel helpless or victimized can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, but the most common events that lead to such severe distress include:

  • Rape, sexual assault, or any kind of physical and/or emotional abuse
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Natural disasters
  • Kidnapping
  • War
  • Plane crashes or car accidents
  • Sudden, unexpected death of a loved one

While PTSD can be debilitating, with proper treatment, people are able to overcome their symptoms and return to a leading a happy, fulfilling life.

Statistics

PTSD statistics

It is said that every year approximately 5.2 million adults will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. It is believed to be more common in women, with an estimated 10% of women developing PTSD at some point in their lives in comparison to only 5% of men. However, it is possible that this statistic is not accurate due to the fact that men may not report the presence of PTSD symptoms as frequently as women do.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for PTSD

There are a variety of different factors that can play a role in determining whether or not a person will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder following a traumatic event. Some examples of the various causes and risk factors include:

Genetic: Just like many other mental health disorders, it is believed that there is a genetic link that determines why some people develop PTSD following a traumatic event while others do not. It is believed that individuals who have a first-degree relative who suffers from anxiety disorders or other types of mental illnesses are a greater risk for developing PTSD.

Physical: Certain neuroimaging studies show that individuals who have been diagnosed with PTSD have marked differences in the structure of specific parts of their brain. In addition, the levels of dopamine and serotonin in individuals with schizophrenia tend to be lower, which means that the way in which their brains regulate the chemicals in their body that are released in response to stress can lead to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Environmental: It has been shown that people who have a large number of highly stressful situations in their lives are at an increased risk of developing PTSD. Things such as witnessing violence on a consistent basis or growing up in an environment where one is subjected to repeated abuse or other traumas can result in the onset of post-traumatic stress disorder later in life.

Risk Factors:

  • Being female
  • Lack of a strong support system
  • Lack of coping skills
  • Suffering from physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse as a child
  • Suffering from other mental health problems

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of PTSD

The signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder will vary from person to person, depending on a number of different factors such as the longevity of the trauma experienced, person’s age, and the support system available. Some symptoms of PTSD may include:

Re-experiencing symptoms:

  • Vivid flashbacks where one feels as though he or she is experiencing the event again
  • Intense physical reactions when reminded of the event (e.g. sweating, rapid breathing, pounding heart)
  • Intrusive and repeated memories of the event
  • Recurrent nightmares

Avoidance symptoms:

  • Avoiding people, places, or situations that remind the person of the traumatic event
  • Having difficulty remembering certain, important aspects of the event
  • Feeling hopeless about the future
  • Loss of interest in things that he or she used to enjoy
  • Feelings of detachment from those around him or her

Hyper-arousal symptoms:

  • Feeling jumpy or having an exaggerated startle response
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Excessively irritable
  • Experiencing angry outbursts
  • Feeling excessively irritable
  • Experiencing angry outbursts
  • Feeling constantly on edge or worried that something bad is going to happen

Effects

Effects of PTSD

When not properly treated, the long-term effects of post-traumatic stress disorder can lead to a number of different negative consequences on an individual’s life. Additionally, to struggling with the symptoms of PTSD those who are not treated are at a higher risk for developing other mental health disorder or medical problems. Some long-term effects that may result from untreated PTSD can include:

  • Social isolation
  • Inability to function at work resulting in loss of job
  • Problems meeting scholastic requirements
  • inability to have healthy interpersonal relationships
  • Separation or divorce
  • Substance abuse or addiction
  • Development of eating disorders
  • Chronic pain
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors

Co-Occurring Disorders

PTSD and co-occurring disorders

Research has shown that 80% of people who are diagnosed with PTSD are also diagnosed with another mental health disorder. Some of the most common co-occurring disorders include:

  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Specific phobias
  • Panic disorder
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Suicidal ideation

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