Causes & Effects of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Carolina House provides leading posttraumatic stress disorder treatment to ensure long-lasting recovery for a healthier and more satisfying life.

Understanding PTSD

Learn about PTSD treatment

Posttraumatic stress disorder, which is commonly referred to by the abbreviation PTSD, is a mental health disorder that can develop after an individual experiences and/or witnesses one or more traumatic events. Symptoms of PTSD, which can include re-experiencing, avoidance, and hyperarousal can continue to manifest long after the traumatic event or events have occurred. This disorder, which can lead to severe impairment, can also cause the onset of flashbacks, exaggerated startle responses, nightmares, anxiety, and panic, and can cause a series of negative effects to develop as time goes by.

Some examples of trauma that can trigger the development of PTSD can include:

  • Terrorist attacks
  • Diagnosis of medical condition
  • Being a victim of a crime
  • Car accidents or plane crashes
  • Sudden death of a friend or loved one
  • Exposure to war
  • Natural or manmade disasters
  • Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse

Not everybody who goes through or witnesses a traumatic event will experience PTSD afterwards. However, those that do develop PTSD can obtain treatment optionsthat can provide themselves the chance to work out the emotions they have surrounding the trauma, develop new coping skills, and learn how to manage their symptoms appropriately.


PTSD statistics

PTSD, which is more common in women than in men, is estimated to impact more than 5 million adults throughout the United States. Roughly 10% of women and 5% of men show symptoms connected to PTSD. However, statistics on the prevalence of this disorder in men many not be most accurate, as many men who battle with PTSD tend to avoid reporting their symptoms.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for PTSD

Experts agree that there are many factors that can cause some individuals to become more likely to suffer from PTSD than others. Some of the following causes and risk factors for PTSD can be explained below:

Genetics: Similar to other mental health issues, an individual’s genetic makeup can determine if he or she is more likely to develop symptoms of PTSD. For example, those who have family history of anxiety disorders have a higher susceptibility to suffer the symptoms of PTSD after experiencing a traumatic event.

Physical: Studies have followed the brain structures of those with PTSD to find that there are structural differences when compared to those who do not have PTSD. In addition, other studies have shown that those with PTSD have different levels of dopamine and serotonin in their brains. Both of these chemicals are responsible for mood regulation and can be negatively affected when trauma is experienced. When this occurs, the symptoms of PTSD develop.

Environmental: Since experiencing or viewing a trauma can bring on PTSD symptoms, it can be deduced that an individual’s environment can affect his or her chances of developing PTSD. In addition, the presence of stress, chaos, or violence can bring on symptoms linked to this disorder.

Risk Factors:

  • Lack of appropriate and healthy coping skills
  • Exposure to trauma, abuse, neglect, violence, or chronic stress
  • Family history of anxiety disorders
  • Preexisting anxiety disorder or other mental health condition
  • Having an inadequate support system

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of PTSD

Depending on the type of trauma that has occurred, the length of time that an individual has been afflicted with PTSD, and the age of the individual can influence how the symptoms of PTSD will vary from person to person. Additionally, the severity of symptoms can be based on the type of support one has surrounding him or her. Some of the signs and symptoms of PTSD can include:

Avoidance symptoms:

  • Avoiding people, places, or situation that are reminiscent of the trauma
  • Feeling detached from the world around them
  • Inability to remember details about the trauma
  • Declined interest in things or activities that were once enjoyed
  • Feeling hopeless about the future

Re-experiencing symptoms:

  • Flashbacks that make an individual feel as if the trauma is happening again
  • Intrusive memories about the trauma
  • Physiological reactions when reminded of the trauma (e.g. sweating, labored breathing, increased heart rate)
  • Recurring nightmares

Hyperarousal symptoms:

  • Poor concentration
  • Inability to sleep
  • Feeling on edge
  • Experiencing angry outbursts
  • Having an exaggerated startle response
  • Ongoing concerns about impending doom


Effects of PTSD

The damaging effects of PTSD can have lasting effects on an individual’s life if treatment is not obtained. One’s physical health, social life, mental wellbeing, and likelihood of developing other mental health or medical conditions can be put at risk if PTSD is not addressed. Below are some of the effects that can develop if an individual does not seek professional care for this mental health condition:

  • Self-harm
  • Suicide attempts
  • Suicidal ideations
  • Decline in quality and quantity of interpersonal relationships
  • Chronic pain
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Family discord
  • Impaired occupational functioning
  • Loss of employment

Co-Occurring Disorders

PTSD and co-occurring disorders

When individuals meet diagnostic criteria for PTSD, it is likely that those individuals will also meet criteria for an additional mental health condition. This often occurs because the symptoms of PTSD overlap with other mental health disorders, and the presence of PTSD can bring on symptoms of other illnesses. Some of the most common mental health conditions that commonly co-occur with PTSD include:

  • Panic disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Specific phobias
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder

Dealing with PTSD and an eating disorder at the same time became so unmanageable that I felt completely hopeless. My time spent with Carolina House helped me regain so much strength and hope. I'm so thankful for their great staff and all the friends I met in the program.

– a former resident
Our Treatment Modalities
Call for Free Insurance Verification
  • Aetna
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina
  • Carelon Behavioral Health
  • Cigna
  • Magellan Health
  • Optum
  • Unfortunately, we do not accept Medicare or Medicaid at this time.