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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder : Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or is a psychiatric condition that is triggered by tragic events that have been experienced or witnessed. Examples of traumatic events that can trigger this condition are traffic accidents, natural disasters, acts of crime such as rape or robbery, or experience on the battlefield.

PTSD belongs to the category of anxiety disorders that make the sufferer unable to forget or otherwise do not want to remember the traumatic experience, and think negatively about themselves and the world around them. This condition is generally characterized by nightmares, feeling isolated, upset, having feelings of guilt, difficulty concentrating, and insomnia.

However, not all people who experience trauma will automatically develop PTSD. This mental disorder is estimated to develop in 30 percent of people who have experienced a traumatic event. Effective treatment is very important to overcome the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Symptoms of PTSD

PTSD symptoms tend to interfere with daily activities, especially in relationships with other people and the work environment. Symptoms that appear on each sufferer can vary. There are those who experience it immediately after the event and some that appear after a few months or even years later.

In general, the symptoms of PTSD can be grouped into five types. The following are explanations and examples.

  • Annoying memories, for example, always remember the terrible details of tragic events or often nightmares about the incident.
  • The tendency to avoid talking or thinking about traumatic events. This condition is indicated by avoiding places, activities, or people that trigger memories for traumatic events.
  • A mindset that changes negatively. People with PTSD tend to have negative feelings towards themselves or others, feeling alienated.
  • Feeling hopeless in facing the future, having memory problems, including remembering important aspects of traumatic events and the difficulty of fostering close relationships with others.
  • Emotional change. This change is indicated by differences in reactions both physically and emotionally, such as difficulty concentrating, feeling very always alert, easily surprised and scared, easily irritated or angry, and having difficulty sleeping.

Symptoms of PTSD can occur in children and adults. But in children, there are some special indications that must also be watched out. These indications include frequent re-occurring of tragic events through games, bedwetting, and very nervous when parting with parents.

Causes and Trigger Factors of PTSD

The onset of PTSD is thought to be triggered by one or several of the following factors, including:

  • Have experienced other trauma events, such as torture in childhood.
  • Have another mental disorder.
  • Long-term trauma.
  • Have family members who have PTSD or other mental disorders.
  • Having a profession that has the potential to cause someone to experience a traumatic event, such as an army.
  • Lack of support from family and friends.

Until now, the exact cause of PTSD is unknown. However, there are allegations about several conditions that can cause post-traumatic stress disorder, namely:

  • Abnormal levels of stress hormones. In danger, the body releases adrenaline stress hormones to trigger reactions from the body. The reaction is in the form of fighting or avoiding to overcome danger or pain. In PTSD conditions, the stress hormone levels released are very high even though the actual conditions are not harmful. This happens because of the emotion triggered by a traumatic experience.
  • Self-protection mechanism. In conditions of PTSD, traumatic memories make us react too quickly as an effort to protect ourselves. This is done to anticipate the occurrence of danger again at a later time.
  • Abnormal brain anatomy. When experiencing PTSD, the part of the brain responsible for memory and emotions (hippocampus) looks smaller than other parts of the brain. This difference is thought to be related to increasing anxiety and fear. The function of the hippocampus that cannot work should make anxiety or fear not decrease over time.

Diagnosis of PTSD

The doctor will collect information by asking for complaints that lead to PTSD. These questions can be used as a reference by doctors in diagnosing PTSD.

The diagnosis of PTSD can be determined by several things, for example:

  • Avoidance behavior against events, people, objects, or activities related to traumatic events
  • Inability to recall the incident
  • Sleeplessness, difficulty concentrating, explosive emotions, often feeling shocked
  • Duration of more than 1 month

PTSD disorders can make you unable to function normally in the community. From physical examination also found several abnormalities that can help doctors diagnose PTSD:

  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Behavioral disorders
  • Memory disorders
  • Disorders of concentration
  • Impulse control disorder

PTSD Treatment

In most cases of PTSD, symptoms can improve after a few weeks without special treatment. But, it is different for patients with symptoms that get worse. These patients need further treatment steps, namely a combination of psychological therapy and drug administration.

Combination handling is expected to overcome symptoms by learning how to deal with the situation, improve the mindset about yourself and others, overcome problems related to past experiences, and how to deal with symptoms that are suffered or symptoms that can reappear.

Psychological therapies provided include:

  • Cognitive behavioral threapy (CBT). Therapy that is usually done from 8 to 12 sessions aims to overcome the problems faced by changing the way of thinking and acting.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Therapy by moving the eye to the side following the therapist's hand movements aims to relieve PTSD symptoms. However, it is not yet clear how this therapy can treat PTSD symptoms.
  • Therapy exposure. This therapy aims to help patients deal with the situation effectively after experiencing a traumatic event.
  • Group therapy. This therapy aims to treat PTSD symptoms in patients by talking about traumatic experiences with other people in a group who have similar experiences or problems.

While drugs that are usually prescribed by doctors in PSTD cases include:

  • This drug is used to overcome problems with difficulty sleeping and improve concentration. Antidepressants are usually given to patients aged 18 years and over within 12 months before being gradually reduced for about 4 weeks. Examples of antidepressant drugs are mirtazapine, amitriptyline, and phenelzine.
  • This drug is given to overcome problems related to insomnia due to repeated nightmares.

Prevention of PTSD

If you or there are people around you who have PTSD disorders, it's a good idea to know this. It is important not to allow PTSD sufferers to be alone - especially in times of their mental instability. Another important thing is to make PTSD sufferers feel safe and comfortable. So avoid things that can make people suffering from PTSD remember the traumatic events they experienced.

There are ways to prevent the occurrence of PTSD. After experiencing a traumatic event, avoid overreacting. Ask for help or protection from people who you think can help get out of the fear that you feel.



1. American Psychiatric Association (2017). What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. 

2. WebMD. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - Topic Overview.

3. Andreasen, N C. (2011). What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience.

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Health and clinical interests include all aspects of infectious diseases