Post-traumatic stress disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – A serious mental condition developed after a shocking, terrifying, or dangerous event called traumas. The person may either experience or witness the event post which he/she may get symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

Most people witnessing traumatic events usually get better with time and self-care after temporary difficulty adjusting and coping. However, PTSD is diagnosed in case the symptoms last for months to years, while interfering with daily activities. Five percent of adolescents had PTSD, and an estimated 1.5% had severe impairment, with prevalence more common in women than in adolescent men. In India, abuse is the highest commonly known cause of PTSD with an average of 52.3%.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

Symptoms may appear immediately or years after the event in post-traumatic stress disorder and may cause significant problems in personal, social or work situations. PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four types as follows:

Intrusive memories: Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories or dreams and nightmares of the traumatic event, flashbacks of the event, severe emotional distress or physical reactions to events reminding the person of that event.

Avoidance: Avoiding thinking or talking about the traumatic event, avoiding places, activities or people reminding of the event

Negative thoughts and mood: Hopelessness about the future, memory problems (also not able to clearly remember stuff about the events), difficulty maintaining close relationships (even with family and friends), feeling emotionally numb

Physical and emotional reaction changes: Being easily startled or frightened, always being cautious, self-destructive behaviour (drinking too much or driving too fast), trouble sleeping and concentrating, aggressive behaviour, overwhelming guilt or shame

What are the causes of PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is probably caused by a mix of several reasons such as:

  • Stressful experiences depending on the intensity of a person’s trauma
  • Any known history of anxiety and depression in the family
  • Features of a person’s personality
  • Brain’s way of working

The most common events leading to the development of PTSD include:

  • Combat exposure
  • Childhood physical abuse
  • Sexual violence
  • Physical assault
  • Being threatened with a weapon
  • An accident

Other traumatic events that can lead to PTSD, are fire, natural disaster, mugging, robbery, plane crash, torture, kidnapping, life-threatening medical diagnosis, terrorist attack,etc.

What is the treatment of PTSD?

Posttraumatic stress disorder cannot be cured but can be successfully managed with therapy. Medications such as anti-depressants may also be prescribed. With proper treatment PTSD symptoms may be completely managed or may become less intense. It is vital to seek help in PTSD. Without help, PTSD cannot be managed.

Psychotherapy: Types of psychotherapy used in PTSD treatment are:

  • Cognitive therapy: A type of talk therapy that helps recognize ways of thinking (cognitive patterns)— for example, making one aware about negative beliefs and the risk of traumatic things happening again.
  • Exposure therapy: This therapy helps to safely face situations that seem to be frightening and can be particularly helpful for flashbacks and nightmares.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): A series of guided eye movements that helps process traumatic memories and changes a patient’s reaction to them.

Living and coping with PTSD:

Along with treatment, following actions may help managing PTSD:

  • Following the treatment plan: It takes time to feel the benefits from therapy or medications, but continuously and routinely communicate with the doctor to help in progress
  • Learning about PTSD: To understand one’s own feelings and develop coping strategies for responding effectively.
  • Taking care of yourself: By getting enough rest, eating a healthy diet, exercising and relaxing
  • Avoid self-medicating: Such as alcohol or drugs is an unhealthy way to try and cope with PTSD.
  • Breaking the cycle: By taking a brisk walk or jumping into a hobby in an attempt to distract from the event and re-focus in the present moment.
  • Staying connected: Spending time with supportive and caring people that offer healing and comfort goes a long way in PTSD management. A support group can be considered by consulting the doctor or mental health professional.

In case of suicidal thoughts, reach out to a close friend or loved one and make an appointment with your doctor or a mental health professional.


  1. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). November 2023. Mayo Clinic.
  2. Carol DerSarkissian. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). November 2023. WebMD.
  3. Gilmoor AR, Adithy A, Regeer B. The Cross-Cultural Validity of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms in the Indian Context: A Systematic Search and Review. Front Psychiatry. 2019 Jul 4;10:439.

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