Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Causes

(Also Known As: Ptsd Causes, Stress Disorder Causes, Traumatic Stress Causes, Chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Causes, Shell Shock Causes, Stress Syndrome Causes, Railway Spine Causes, Traumatic War Neurosis Causes, Battle Fatigue Causes, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome Causes)

(Reviewed by: Paul Peterson, Licensed Therapist)

What Causes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

There are innumerable numbers of possible causes for the occurrence of post traumatic stress disorder which may involve the following culprits:

Psychological trauma due to:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual assault
  • Accidents
  • Drug addiction
  • Medical complication
  • Accidents
  • Employment and occupation exposure to war and disasters
  • Torture
  • Kidnapping
  • Prisoner of war

Biochemical changes in the brain

  • The changes in the biochemicals of the brains of persons with PTSD differ from those suffering from a psychiatric disorder, such as major depression. There is a low cortisol secretion and a high secretion of catecholamine in the urine, with an elevated level of norepinephrine and cortisol ratio after the exposure to the stressor.
  • The lower catecholamine level and higher concentration of corticotrophin-releasing factor are highly suggestive of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis abnormality.
  • These changes provides an explanation to the pathophysiological cause of the maladaptive learning pathways in post traumatic stress disorder in response to fear since there is a hypersensitive and hyperactive response of the HPA axis.
  • Cortisol plays an important role in restoring homeostasis or balance after a stress response, trauma survivors with low cortisol level usually experience longer distress response, thereby setting a stage for PTSD to occur.

Neuroanatomical Factor

  • There is a reduction of hippocampus volume in the brain of individuals with PTSD as compared to those who showed no symptoms of the condition.
  • There is a hyperarousal of the amygdale, with insufficient control of the medial pre-frontal cortex and hippocampus which are responsible for the formation of emotional memories, specifically those that are related to fears.


  • Genetics also plays a vital role in increasing the susceptibility of a person developing PTSD plus the environmental factors that can easily trigger the development of the condition.

The main triggering factors responsible for the development of PTSD consists of being exposed to a terrifying and life threatening event that may involve death, extreme threat to one’s life, and physical, sexual, and emotional abuse that cause the victim to fear for their life. The fear lingers on even in the absence of the threat. The victim cannot stop remembering the traumatic event, which then causes them to experience distressing psychological and mental illness affecting their daily functioning. The longer the person is exposed to the threatening event the worse their symptoms become and they are severely affected with consequences gravely affecting their personal relationships and social functions.

There are some identified risk factors that can help trigger PTSD as follows: 3

  • There are 4 kinds of traumatic events by which victims of PTSD are commonly exposed:
    • Living through a natural disaster (fire, flood)
    • Living through a life threatening event/accident
    • Seeing someone badly injured or killed
    • Having been in combat
  • Life threatening events such as assault, car accident, plane crash, rape, mugging, kidnapping, torture, life threatening medical diagnosis, neglect and abuse, threatened with a weapon, and terrorist attacks increase the risk for one to develop post traumatic stress syndrome.
  • The risk is increased due to the following factors:
    • The existence of another medical health illness
    • The intensity of the traumatic event
    • The duration of the traumatic event
    • Family history of depression
    • Family members with post traumatic stress disorder
    • Lacking a support system from family and friends

Could You Have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Topics

Related Conditions

Anxiety Disorder NOS – Unpleasant Emotion, Fear, Anxiety, Phobia, Fatigue, Exhaustion
Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Irrational Worry, Uncontrolled Depression, Anxiety Response Not in Proportion to the Actual Cause
Panic Disorder – Panic Attack, Anxiety, On-Going Irrational Worry
Social Anxiety Disorder – Social Anxiety, Anxiety Disorder, Chronic Fear to be Judge by Others, Fear of Social Interaction