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Why Do People Get PTSD?

Exceptionally stressful events or trauma can cause someone to suffer from PTSD.

The prerequisite of PTSD is for a person to have experienced or witnessed an exceptionally stressful event, usually involving actual or threatened death or serious injury of the person or others. While most people will experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime, not everyone will suffer from PTSD.  Some risk factors that may increase the risk of one suffering from PTSD include:

  • Previous history of trauma and experiencing other concurrent stressors
  • Personal history of mood or anxiety disorder
  • Underlying anxious prone personality
  • Lack of social support
  • Genetic factors, with those having a family history of mental illness being at higher risk
  • Concurrent substance misuse

There are also suggestions that those suffering from PTSD have changes in their brain structure and hormone levels.³⋅⁴⋅⁵

[³]Bremner, J.D., Randall, P., Scott, T.M., Bronen, R.A., Seibyl, J.P., Southwick, S.M., Delaney, R.C., McCarthy, G., Charney, D.S. and Innis, R.B., 1995. MRI-based measurement of hippocampal volume in patients with combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder. The American journal of psychiatry152(7), p.973.

[⁴]Geracioti Jr, T.D., Baker, D.G., Ekhator, N.N., West, S.A., Hill, K.K., Bruce, A.B., Schmidt, D., Rounds-Kugler, B., Yehuda, R., Keck Jr, P.E. and Kasckow, J.W., 2001. CSF norepinephrine concentrations in posttraumatic stress disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry158(8), pp.1227-1230.

[⁵]Duncan, L.E., Cooper, B.N. and Shen, H., 2018. Robust findings from 25 years of PTSD genetics research. Current psychiatry reports20(12), pp.1-9.

Information provided by:

Dr Keith Hariman headshot

Dr Keith Hariman

Specialist in Psychiatry, OT&P Healthcare

Please note that all medical articles featured on our website have been reviewed by qualified healthcare doctors. The articles are for general information only and are not medical opinions nor should the contents be used to replace the need for a personal consultation with a qualified medical professional on the reader's medical condition.

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