Causes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

The causes of Post-traumatic stress disorder are many but with one common factor, trauma. Any traumatic event that is life-threatening or induces intense fear or affects the physical and emotional well-being of the individual can cause PTSD. Some of these events are:

  • Experiencing or witnessing a severe accident
  • Being a victim of a kidnapping
  • Being a victim of a terrorist attack
  • Being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease
  • Being tortured
  • Being mugged or assaulted
  • Being raped
  • Exposure to any disaster, whether natural or man-made
  • Involvement in civil conflict
  • Exposure to war and combat

People may also develop PTSD as a reaction events that we may not regard as traumatic like divorce or losing a job.

Some of the factors that increase the risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder include:

  • The severity of the trauma
  • The length of exposure to a traumatic event - events like kidnapping, which can last for several days or longer
  • The number of traumatic events endured – events like combat or armed conflict
  • Sex – Females are at a higher risk
  • Those with a pre-existing mental disorder
  • Children and adolescents
  • People with learning disabilities
  • People from broken homes
  • People who have experienced domestic violence
It has also been noticed that people who have received disaster-preparedness training are less likely to develop PTSD (for example, police, fire-fighters, paramedics and other medical professionals) than those who have not received such training. 
Frequently asked questions
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  3. Rianne Stam, PTSD and stress sensitisation: A tale of brain and body: Part 1: Human studies, Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, Volume 31, Issue 4, 2007, Pages 530-557, ISSN 0149-7634, 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2006.11.010.