You can develop post-traumatic stress disorder when you go through, see or learn about an event involving actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violation.

As with most mental health problems, PTSD is probably caused by a complex mix of:

  • Stressful experiences, including the amount and severity of trauma you have gone through in your life
  • Inherited mental health risks, such as a family history of anxiety and depression
  • Inherited features of your personality — often called your temperament
  • The way your brain regulates the chemicals and hormones your body releases in response to stress

Probability Factors

People of all ages can have post-traumatic stress disorder. However, some factors may make you more likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic event, such as:

  • Experiencing intense or long-lasting trauma
  • Having experienced other trauma earlier in life, such as childhood abuse
  • Having a job that increases your risk of being exposed to traumatic events, such as military personnel and first responders
  • Having other mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression
  • Having problems with substance misuse, such as excess drinking or drug use
  • Lacking a good support system of family and friends
  • Having blood relatives with mental health problems, including anxiety or depression

Symptoms of traumatic stress, PTSD Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Complex PTSD

These psychological and physiological symptoms are common

  • Physical, mental or emotional exhaustion
  • Mental ‘blankness’ or spaced-out feelings
  • Overwhelming emotional responses such as shame, anger, depression
  • Anxiety, including chronic low-level anxiety
  • Racing heart, palpitations, breathing problems
  • Being on ‘red alert’, or hypervigilant
  • Panic attacks
  • Fears and terrors
  • Phobias, specific overwhelming fears, for instance of spiders
  • Flash backs and intrusive memories or images
  • Extreme sensitivity to light, sound or touch
  • Insomnia, nightmares, night terrors


Post-traumatic stress disorder can disrupt your whole life ― your job, your relationships, your health and your enjoyment of everyday activities.

Having PTSD increases your risk of mental health problems, such as:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Issues with drugs or alcohol use
  • Eating disorders
  • Suicidal thoughts and actions

There may also be behavioural symptoms such as:

  • Attraction to dangerous situations or people
  • Addictive behaviours, issues or misuse of drugs or alcohol
  • Avoidance behaviour, avoiding places, activities, memories, situations, or people

Physical symptoms and pain conditions often accompany PTSD like:

  • Psychosomatic illnesses, particularly some headaches, migraines, neck, and back problems
  • Muscle weakness, muscle pain
  • Digestive problems, e.g. IBS
  • Immune system problems
  • Skin disorders
  • Allergies and Environmental sensitivities

Syndromes such as the following are often symptomatic of overwhelm or traumatic stress.

  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Myofascial pain syndrome
  • Irritable bowel syndrome

Getting timely help and support may prevent normal stress reactions from getting worse and developing into PTSD.