About PTSD Image

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur after an extremely frightening, tragic or upsetting event. PTSD sufferers may have had their own lives directly threatened, or they may have witnessed a life-threatening event that happened to a loved one or even a complete stranger.

Common PTSD Causes

A situation that is directly responsible for the onset of PTSD is called a trigger. While some people experience symptoms of PTSD immediately after this event, PTSD symptoms may not appear until years later in other people.

Although PTSD onset may be delayed, experts have identified certain situations that are likely to trigger the development of PTSD. Here is a PTSD checklist of some common PTSD triggers:

  • Abuse (physical, emotional or sexual)
  • Car accident
  • Divorce
  • Kidnapping or torture
  • Life-threatening disease or condition diagnosis (HIV, cancer, etc.)
  • Loss of employment
  • Military wartime service
  • Natural disaster
  • Physical assault
  • Rape
  • Serious physical injury.

Understanding PTSD Symptoms

PTSD is a very unpredictable disorder. While a traumatic event can cause PTSD in one person, a similar experience may not cause the condition in another. PTSD symptoms may also take years to develop after the original trigger event.

Common PTSD symptoms include:

  • Anger
  • Avoiding situations that remind you of the traumatic event
  • Flashbacks
  • General aloofness or sense of numbness
  • Increased vigilance (hyperarousal) and a feeling of always being on guard
  • Irritability
  • Nightmares and other sleep disturbances
  • Poor concentration.

For PTSD sufferers, any environmental or social stimuli can trigger a flashback. From sounds to images, a PTSD patient is constantly at risk of running into triggers that will cause her to re-experience the original event. A combination of symptoms, involving reliving the event, hyperarousal and avoidance, need to be present to receive a PTSD diagnosis.

Just as symptoms of PTSD can take years to develop, so too can it take years for a person to recover from or learn to live with PTSD. Because PTSD is so elusive, understanding exactly what PTSD is can help you identify it in yourself or loved ones.

PTSD Treatment

PTSD treatment usually involves a combination of approaches. Here are some common treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder:

  • Cognitive therapy, such as eye movement desensitization and preprocessing (EMDR)
  • Education about PTSD and conflict resolution
  • Family and couples counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Medications, including SSRIs (selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors), such as Prozac© or Zoloft©
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Sleep problem treatments.


Dryden-Edwards, R. (2010). Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Retrieved June 23, 2010, from:

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2007). What is PTSD?. Retrieved June 25, 2010, from: