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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms and Causes

In treating the psychological conditions of war veterans returning home from the battle lines psychologists began realizing that many of them had the same general symptoms that were associated with other individuals who had suffered through terrifying ordeals. These symptoms included an overdeveloped startle reflex, an emotional numbness, a loss of interests, irritability, aggressiveness and a difficulty in expressing affection (“Anxiety Disorders”, 2006). The degree to which these symptoms affect their everyday life varies, with those experiencing the most severe symptoms being those whose terrifying experience was the result of a deliberate action on someone’s else’s part, such as a mugging, a rape or child abuse. The condition was first recognized in battle-weary soldiers, but has since been identified in several other life occurrences, such as domestic violence. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops following direct personal experience of a traumatic event, witnessing a traumatic event and/or experiencing an event that involves a threat to one’s own or another’s life.

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Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is another that can be caused by exposure to violence. “There are a number of traumatic events that have been shown to cause PTSD. Studies document PTSD in survivors of: natural and man made disasters such as war, floods; violent crimes such as kidnapping, rape or murder of a parent, sniper fire, and school shootings; motor vehicle accidents such as automobile and plane crashes; severe burns; exposure to community violence; war; peer suicide and sexual & physical abuse.” (Meichenbaum, 1994). Adults symptoms of PTSD includes flashbacks, nightmares, emotional blunting, detachment from people, inability to feel pleasure, unable to work in the real world.

When exposed to threatening or brutal emotional and/or physical treatment, wives and children experience traumatic stress disorders that require exceptional coping skills. Instances of domestic violence are usually unanticipated and uncontrollable which serve to devastate a family member’s sense of wellbeing and security. Negative effects that could damage a person’s psyche for a lifetime may result from a one-time occurrence and worsens from prolonged exposure to traumatic experiences involving family violence. “With repeated exposure to traumatic events, a proportion of individuals may develop Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Most people who suffer from PTSD (especially, in severe cases) have considerable interpersonal and academic and occupational problems” (Meichenbaum, 1994).

Depending upon when in life the individual experiences PTSD will help determine the degree of damage that might be inflicted as well as whether or not the individual will be able to overcome the damage done. Generally, symptoms of PTSD emerge within three months of the traumatic event that triggers it. In the case of child abuse, this is a recurring action, therefore the child is never given the opportunity to overcome the violence and return to a state of relative equilibrium. They live in a constant state of fear that is likely to develop into a chronic condition. The outward symptoms of an overactive startle response and a general avoidance of social situations then becomes reason for ridicule by others (further driving the child into isolation) and restricts their access to appropriate guidance and counseling – even the informal kind that can be offered through normal interaction between friends. Because of its potentially long-lasting effects, the dynamics of posttraumatic stress disorder need to be better understood because better understanding can lead to faster healing which could serve to help break the cycles of violence seen in the community.


“Anxiety Disorders.” (2006). Washington D.C.: National Institute of Mental Health. Web.

Meichenbaum, D. (1994). A Clinical Handbook/Practical Therapist Manual for Assessing and Treating Adults with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Ontario, Canada: Institute Press.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms and Causes'. 3 November.

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