It’s Not Just War: 5 Reasons Someone Might Be Experiencing PTSD


While modern advancements have removed much of the danger our ancestors experienced just to survive, trauma still makes its mark. Individuals from all walks of life can go on to exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. A common yet less acknowledged mental health condition, PTSD comes on after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. 

The inciting trauma may be publicly accepted as traumatic or it could be specifically troubling to that one person. This nuance makes identifying, diagnosing, and getting help for PTSD especially challenging. However, understanding more of the reasons someone might be experiencing PTSD is the first step toward healing. 

1. Sexual Abuse and Assault

A person’s body is theirs to decide what to do with and with whom to share it. When this sacred barrier is crossed by way of sexual abuse or assault, the fallout can result in PTSD. The severity and frequency of the abuse doesn’t dictate the potential of PTSD, but prolonged abuse may increase the risk. Victims may experience nightmares and flashbacks that are triggered by memories of the incident or abuser. Many times, these triggers aren’t even noticed by the victim, as their trauma is constantly running in the background.

The impact of one’s body being violated is significant, and the psychological toll can be too much to bear. Oftentimes, abusers are people they know and even love, and distancing oneself from them can be hard. In these instances, mental health rehab can provide the distance, space, and solitude to focus on healing. Plus, facilities suited for round-the-clock care and support can facilitate an environment where individuals can rebuild their lives.

2. Job-Related Exposure to Trauma

First responders are ready for anything and often arrive on the scene of someone’s worst nightmare. While the adrenaline rush and specialized training kick in during the response, the fallout of repeat traumatic exposure piles up. The job demands that people be able to set aside the carnage they witnessed when extracting a victim from a car wreck. However, repressing such emotions can start spilling into a person’s daily life or exploding after a personal trauma.

The appearance of PTSD in first responders may be subtle, coming across as disinterested or withdrawn. First responders are trained to show up focused and to set aside any personal worries for the sake of others. The tradition and culture of some groups may also make repressing these emotions even more the norm. However, one crack in the armor can cause a seemingly solid individual breakdown, requiring focused support and therapy.

3. Natural Disasters

The shrill sound of a tornado siren spikes anxiety in the core of anyone within earshot. Thankfully, most people experience more warnings than disasters, but when they do strike, they strip more than physical assets. Natural disasters incite a primal response to survive, requiring many people to make heartbreaking split decisions in the moment. To save yourself, you might have to leave your beloved dog behind to drown. In an attempt to help others, you may have to decide who to help first when time is running out.

These moments recruit anyone in the path of destruction to respond much like a soldier, but without training or tools. Often catching a person off-guard, the responsibility of saving others, let alone yourself, can make life afterward a nightmare. Survivors may become fearful of future natural disasters, over-preparing for them or becoming reclusive as a result. When disasters result in the loss of a home, the additional stress of rebuilding can make PTSD worse. 

4. Childhood Trauma

Most of a child’s brain development takes place before the age of five, making their neuroplasticity vulnerable to trauma. During this sensitive time, their life experiences at home, school, and in the world make their mark. If their parents are having a challenging time, they may lash out or be less nurturing during this brain-building period. Emotional and physical abuse can be passed down, and kids witnessing domestic violence at home have this imprinted in their minds.

The initial result of this trauma may be limited to slight behavioral issues in childhood, which often come with the territory. However, in adulthood, how people experience life, pursue their goals, and handle relationships can start exhibiting signs of  PTSD. If a romantic partner begins to argue with them, it may trigger an oversized reaction, even when the argument is reasonable. Less obvious responses might be trouble sleeping or concentrating and even a heightened fear response to stressful situations. 

5. Witnessing or Experiencing Violence or Traumatic Events

Direct involvement in a traumatic accident isn’t a prerequisite to developing PTSD. Observing a car crash and the recovery effort is hard to look away from, let alone forget. A person can begin to feel survivor’s guilt after replaying their day’s events and how it could have been them. Some people rethink how they could have helped prevent the accident, punishing themselves for what they should have done differently.

The suddenness of an event, paired with the severity of the accident, leaves deep psychological scars. And when you add in repressing emotions regarding the incident, PTSD can worsen, making the healing process even more challenging. People may develop fears of similar events, have intrusive memories, and avoid anything that reminds them of the trauma. When a loved one is involved in the event, the addition of grief and loss exacerbates the symptoms of PTSD.

Read Also: Are You Keeping Your Office Clean Enough?

All Trauma is Worthy of Compassion and Care

No matter the source of one’s PTSD, it is deserving of compassion and care from others. Understanding the prevalence of the disorder, demystifying support options, and being open about mental health can help. Early identification of the potential for PTSD can help potential sufferers get support and treatment, but it’s never too late. If someone you know may be experiencing PTSD, show compassion and connect them with services and resources to heal.

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