PTSD- Causes

PTSD occurs after experiencing or even witnessing a traumatic event. The following are a few of the many possible causes:

Serious road accidents

Surviving natural (floods, cyclones, tsunamis) or man-made disasters (in case of Bangladesh, incidents of building collapsing and political turmoil)

Violent personal assaults, such as sexual assault, mugging or robbery

Prolonged sexual abuse, violence or severe neglect

Witnessing violent deaths

Military combat

Being held hostage

Terrorist attacks

The condition is said to develop in around 1 in 3 people who experience trauma. Although the precise mechanism as to why PTSD develops is uncertain there are certain theories. Certain precipitating factors seem to be involved. These include: pre-existing depression, anxiety, unsupportive family members or sometimes even a genetic predisposition appears to be linked.

The theories are explained below:

1) Survival Mechanism:

It is thought that the symptoms of PTSD are a means of helping the individual coping with the experience and be better prepared for future re-occurrances. For example, the “flashbacks” help people remember every detail of the event so that they are better prepared if it happens again, and the state of “hyper-arousal” is thought to help the person react quicker.

Unfortunately these so called “coping mechanisms” serve as a hindrance to the person being able to process and move on from the experience.

2) Elevated Adrenaline levels:

When faced with danger, the body produces the hormone “adrenaline” that triggers a “fight or flight” response in the body, which helps to dull pain and the senses.

It is thought that people with PTSD have higher levels of this hormone, since it is secreted even when there is no danger. As a result, people suffer from emotional numbing and the hyper-aroused state.

3) Changes in the brain:

Studies have shown that, people with PTSD have an abnormality with the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in emotional processing. Brain scans have revealed that these people have a hippocampus that is smaller in size. The poorly functioning hippocampus may prevent flashbacks and memories from being properly processed, so the anxieties sufferers generate do not reduce over time.

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Maya Expert Team