It is important to stress that not every trauma survivor experiences Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The factors that cause it have not been fully researched, but we do believe that two factors play an important part are:
- your upbringing
- how your brain reacts to a serious trauma.
When individuals have had a stable upbringing and no major attachment disorders, the brain seems to be able to file away a traumatic event, explain it and resume normal life. (Just as an animal that survives an attack by a predator goes back to life with the herd.)
The brain’s reaction is also experiential – the impact of trauma on a shopper who witnesses a stabbing in the supermarket is different to that of the soldier who has been trained to expect and deal with violence.
Common Symptoms of PTSD
- Avoidance and emotional numbness
- Re-experiencing the trauma through nightmares and flashbacks.
These symptoms are an indication of PTSD when they persist more than one month after the trauma.
[source: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders by the American Psychiatric Association and NICE CG26 (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidelines]
Trauma is defined in this case by exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violation.
- Directly experiencing the traumatic events
- Witnessing in person the traumatic events
- Learning that the traumatic events happened to a close family member or close friend
- Experiencing repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic events (examples are first responders collecting human remains, police officers repeatedly exposed to details of child abuse).
This does not apply to exposure online or through television, films and photographs unless the exposure is work-related.