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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments Research Paper

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Updated: Dec 19th, 2019


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that develops when one feels when their safety is threatened and when they feel helpless. The common notion in today’s environment is that the condition is attributed to soldiers who are scared of battle. Whereas military combat is listed as the most common cause of PTSD in men, it can occur due to a number of different reasons in both women and men.

An event in one’s life that is overwhelming and one that is both uncontrollable and unpredictable in a person’s life can be the trigger of PTSD.

The condition does not only affect those who went through a traumatizing ordeal but also those who witnessed it, law enforcement agents and emergency aid workers who pick up the pieces after the occurrence or even to the family and friends of the people who were the victims of the actual trauma.

Every person is created different. As such, it follows that the symptoms of PTSD can manifest themselves in a person maybe hours after, days, weeks, months or even years.

There are many events that can lead to the manifestation of PTSD in people. War has been detailed as the most common. Others include car clashes, sudden death occurring to a close person; be it friend or relative, plane clashes, kidnapping, rape, neglect during childhood, deadly assault, attack by terrorists, sexual abuse mostly from a close person, physical abuse, natural disasters among many others.

The thesis developed for this paper is the understanding of the causes, symptoms, stigma, treatments and prevention of post-traumatic stress disorder. The facts that are going to be discussed in this research paper will aid in the proving of this thesis.


PTSD can manifest itself in many ways. The symptoms may arise gradually, suddenly or may be on and off. The symptoms can either be triggered by a cue in the environment like a noise which makes the person remember the trauma or can appear out of nowhere. Symptoms can be classified into those arising from re-experience of the traumatic event, avoidance of the events and those arising from emotional arousal and increased anxiety.

Specifically, a person who re-experiences the trauma will have upsetting and intrusive memories of that event, nightmares of the event itself or other things that are frightening, intense physical reactions including nausea, pounding of the heart, sweating, rapid breathing, and tension of the muscles, flashbacks to the particular event so that it seems like it is occurring again and intense distress that arises from being reminded of the trauma.

One who is trying to numb and avoid remembrance of the event is likely to avoid thoughts, activities, places and even feelings that may associate with the trauma, have a feeling of detachment from others and be emotionally numb, lose interest in the daily activities and even in life itself, have an abnormal sense of a normal life and tend to expect nothing resembling it; like a career, family or even a normal life span and lack the ability to remember the exact aspects of the trauma.

Those who experience increased emotional arousal and anxiety are likely to have difficulty in falling asleep, feeling uneasy such that they are easily startled and feel jumpy, be on constant alert, have decreased concentration and be easily irritated and occasionally burst out in anger (Kimerling & Calhoun, 1994).

Other symptoms that are common with the disorder include hopelessness, pains, anger, suicidal thoughts, depression, guilt and shame, drug abuse, self, loneliness even in the presence of others and self-blame. Individuals who are affected by PTSD do not portray normal behavior. They tend to avoid being in certain situations that normal behavior expects them to be.

These individuals will occasionally seem lost since they are incapable of paying attention and can neither therefore sustain a conversation nor can they keep at an activity for long. The behavior that people with PTSD portray is not considered normal. Recurring distressing recollections, nightmares, distress, lack of interest in normal life and sleeplessness are some of the abnormal behavior that people with PTSD show.

These behaviors are considered abnormal since they were usually associated with people with mental illnesses and not in otherwise normal people. This perception that has been engraved in the minds of people and resulting from cultural beliefs are what makes the behaviors of PTSD to be classified as abnormal.

Often, these people will withdraw themselves from society and will always stay alone (Meltzer et al, 2000). Since they do not sleep much, they may be drowsy. Other abnormal behavior is the ease of irritability, aggression, agitation and experience of panic attacks. PTSD is classified as being in axis 1.

This is because the disorder is often characterized by major psychiatric illness, major depression, substance abuse and in most cases is recurrent without any psychotic features.

There are negative qualities that society has attached with having mental illnesses. People who have mental disorders are stigmatized which results to feeling of weakness, hopelessness and shame (Britt, 2000). 61% of the soldiers who return from combat admit that a disclosure of their psychological condition would mean a negative effect on their careers.

Such people who are mostly victims of PTSD do not therefore seek treatments and instead attempt to deal with the situation on their own which worsens it. Once a soldier has been diagnosed with a psychological problem associated with PTSD, they are less likely to go for referral treatment compared to referral for physical illnesses.

The society that we live in has not changed much even with the attempt to sensitize people on the condition. 43% of soldiers returning from battle believe that a disclosure of their psychological conditions will make other people not want to be around them (Hoge et al, 2004). This shows that they believe that the society negatively treats those who have any king of psychological problem however minute or whether treatable or not.

Studies that have been done on soldiers indicate that most of them do not seek treatment for PTSD for fear that the members of their respective units will see them as being weak. The major barrier to the treatment of PTSD is the perception of the society on those who do seek the treatment.

PTSD is treated by psychotherapy also known as talk therapy, medication or a combination of both.. Psychotherapy involves talking to a professional and can occur one-on-one or as a group therapy. The treatment usually takes a minimum of 6 weeks and can extend up to 12 weeks.

During this period, friends and family are encouraged to assist as research has shown that the support of these people actually improves the chances of success of the therapy.

The focus of treatment can either be on the alleviation of the symptoms of the disorder or can be on the social aspects of the patient’s life including family and the job. The therapists in conjunction with doctors try out a number of different therapies to determine which combination works best for a particular patient.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most common type of therapy and includes; exposure therapy, cognitive restructuring and stress inoculation training. Medications include sertraline (Zoloft) and paroxetine (Paxil), both antidepressants, which have been approved by the U.S.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A combination of both psychotherapy and medicines has been proposed as the most effective way of treatment which is known as psychopharmacology. There are some ethical issues that arise from the use of psychopharmacology.

The most common is that the drugs that are used for treatment have been found to have negative side effects which include thoughts of suicide in victims (Bridge et al, 2007). This begs the question among critics of whether such side effects are desirable considering the outcome that needs to be arrived at.

In order to prevent the adverse effects that are associated with PTSD, there are a number of precautions that can be taken. The first is that the victim should be immediately taken or take himself to a safe place to prevent further exposure to the trauma.

Secondly, one should consult a doctor if they have suffered any physical injury. Thirdly, the person should be availed with or should look for food and water. Fourth, the person should contact a loved one either friend or family and inform them of the occurrence and lastly, one should immediately seek help.


PTSD is a condition that affects people who have undergone a major trauma or event that leaves them feeling powerless. Such events are usually unpredictable and uncontrollable. The condition is characterized by a wide range of symptoms that can occur immediately after the ordeal or after some time.

Society should be sensitized on the condition in order to reduce the stigma that is associated with it which prevents people with the symptoms from seeking treatment. The condition can be treated by psychotherapy, medication or psychopharmacology which is a combination of both. However, a person who has been caught up in a traumatic occurrence should take precautions to ensure that PTSD does not develop in him.


Bridge, J.A. et al. (2007). Clinical response and risk for reported suicidal ideation and suicide attempts in pediatric antidepressant treatment, a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of the American Medical Association, 297(15): 1683-1696.

Britt, T.W. (2000). The stigma of psychological problems in a work environment: Evidence from the screening of service members returning from Bosnia. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 30, 1599-1618.

Hoge, C.W. et al. (2004). Combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, mental health problems, and barriers to care. The New England Journal of Medicine, 351, 13-22.

Kimerling, R., & Calhoun, K.S. (1994). Somatic symptoms, social support, and treatment seeking among sexual assault victims. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 62, 333-340.

Meltzer, H. et al (2000). The reluctance to seek treatment for neurotic disorders. Journal of Mental Health, 9, 319-327.

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IvyPanda. "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments." December 19, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-6/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments." December 19, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-6/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments'. 19 December.

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