The Development of PTSD

The Development of PTSD

Many people believe that only individuals who have gone through severe trauma develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, anyone can experience PTSD regardless of age, gender, or socioeconomic status. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event.” In fact, “Some experiences, like the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one, can also cause PTSD.” At Alter San Diego Crisis Intervention, we use evidence-based treatments to help clients recover from trauma and stress. We ensure that clients learn to develop essential coping skills to manage their condition. 

What Causes PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder does not have only one cause, and often a combination of stress, trauma, and lack of social support contribute to the development of the disorder. According to StatPearls Publishing, “[P]osttraumatic stress disorder occurs in approximately 5% to 10% of the population and is higher in women than in men.” Women often have a higher risk of experiencing emotional trauma and may have fewer support resources. Some known risk factors for developing PTSD include: 

  • Witnessing or experiencing a severe trauma 
  • Living through a natural disaster 
  • Witnessing or experiencing a severe illness or injury 
  • Losing a loved one 
  • Sexual or physical abuse and assault 
  • Childhood abuse or neglect 
  • Living or working in a war zone  

Almost any stressful situation can cause post-traumatic stress disorder depending on the context. People with fewer social supports or no coping skills may have a more difficult time processing trauma. In some cases, their brain may not store traumatic memories in a healthy way, causing long-term side effects and trauma responses. 

Changes in the Brain

Individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder often have abnormal levels of cortisol and other chemical changes in the brain. The previously mentioned research by StatPearls Publishing reported, “[S]ome studies have shown altered functioning of other neurotransmitter systems such as GABA, glutamate, serotonin, neuropeptide Y, and other endogenous opioids in patients with PTSD.” In some cases, complex PTSD medication can relieve symptoms by stabilizing chemicals in the brain that regulate mood, sleep patterns, and specific behaviors.

Areas of the brain most commonly affected by post-traumatic stress disorder include: 

  • Hippocampus
  • Amygdala
  • Medial prefrontal cortex 

No two cases are the same, and you can collaborate with your care team to determine how PTSD may have affected your health. The dedicated professionals at Alter San Diego Crisis Intervention will help you identify the best treatment options to address your circumstances. 

Possible Signs and Symptoms

The warning signs that indicate someone may have PTSD include: 

  • Constant alertness 
  • Exaggerated responses to unexpected sounds or movement within the environment
  • Difficulty remembering the trauma or intrusive thoughts about the event 
  • Social withdrawal and isolation from loved ones 
  • Uncharacteristic fear, aggression, or paranoia 

The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder include the following: 

  • Nightmares or other sleep disturbances
  • Avoiding situations or locations that trigger memories of the trauma 
  • Extreme mood swings 
  • Hyperarousal and a feeling of being constantly alert for danger 
  • Flashbacks of the traumatic event 

The symptoms often fluctuate in intensity based on stress levels and the presence of environmental triggers. 

What Are PTSD Triggers?

Individuals with PTSD have triggers that automatically set off chain reactions within the brain resulting in physical and emotional disturbances. The triggers can be anything and often remind the person directly or indirectly of traumatic events in their past. Some common triggers include: 

  • Crowded public spaces 
  • Physical touch 
  • Loud noises 
  • Objects, locations, or people related to the event 

Treatment often involves finding healthy ways to cope with triggers and prevent severe side effects like dissociative events and flashbacks, especially when considering the PTSD brain damage implications. Exposure therapy and eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) are common treatments for PTSD and other anxiety-related disorders, taking into account the potential impact of PTSD brain damage on the individual’s overall well-being.

What Are the Treatment Options?

The symptoms of PTSD can interfere with some people’s ability to work, maintain relationships, and complete basic tasks of daily living. More severe cases may require crisis stabilization and partial hospitalization (PHP) or intensive outpatient (IOP) care. The most common treatments for PTSD include: 

  • Trauma-focused therapy 
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy 
  • Other forms of psychotherapy 
  • Prescription medication 
  • Alternative holistic therapies 

Many people with PTSD also have co-occurring mental health or substance misuse issues that require simultaneous and integrative treatments. Alter San Diego Crisis Intervention can provide personalized care that addresses all current and underlying issues related to your mental health. 

How to Help a Loved One With PTSD

If someone you love has been diagnosed with PTSD, you can help them by being empathetic and educating yourself about their condition. Alter San Diego Crisis Intervention offers family therapy and other support services. Family involvement in therapy is essential to the recovery process for individuals with PTSD. You can collaborate with your loved one and their care team to smooth the transition from structured treatment to long-term recovery. The love and support you provide will help your loved one feel more confident in their ability to overcome challenges related to recovery. 

No two people react to trauma the same way, and anyone can develop PTSD. In most cases, it involves experiencing, witnessing, or hearing about a highly distressing event. If multiple individuals experience the same traumatic event, only a few might develop PTSD or other mental health issues. Researchers are still uncertain why only specific individuals develop PTSD. However, genetics, age, and environmental factors may play a role. Alter San Diego Crisis Intervention uses evidence-based methods like psychotherapy to help clients cope with their symptoms and manage the side effects of PTSD. To learn more about our programs and services, call our office today at (866) 986-1481. We can help you heal from the effects of trauma.