Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD): What is it? Diagnosis and Treatments

Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) What is it Diagnosis and Treatments
  1. What is it?
  2. Causes.
  3. Symptoms.
  4. Prevention.
  5. Types.
  6. Diagnosis.
  7. Treatments.
  8. Other data

1. What is it?

Post traumatic stress syndrome is a psychiatric disorder that appears in people who have lived through a dramatic episode in their lives (war, kidnapping, violent death of a family member…). In people who suffer it are frequent nightmares that recall the tragic experience lived in the past.

In these cases, it is necessary to differentiate this syndrome from other problems that involve as triggers situations of “everyday” life, such as divorce, family conflicts or economic problems.

2. Causes

Currently, specialists do not know the exact cause of a traumatic event that can generate this syndrome in some people, but not in others.

In these cases, genes, emotions and the family situation play an important role. It is possible that emotional trauma from the past may increase the risk of developing this disorder after a recent traumatic event.

Under normal circumstances, the hormones and stress chemicals secreted by the body in the face of a stressful event return to their normal levels within a short period of time. But for people with PTSD, the body continues to secrete hormones and chemicals.

The causes of this pathology may be:

  • Robbery, rape, or gender-based violence.
  • Terrorism or war.
  • Imprisonment or a car accident.
  • Natural disasters.

3. Symptoms

In some cases, the onset of symptoms may occur years later than the causative event. These are the most characteristic signs:

  • Remembrance of the trauma (flashbacks), nightmares or instantaneous and involuntary memories at any time of the day.
  • Hallucinations with the idea of repeating the traumatic event.
  • Extreme anxiety when coming into contact with people, places or any circumstance that reminds the event.
  • The patient tends to avoid conversations, places, people and, in general, anything that may be related to the trauma.
  • Palpitations, shortness of breath and elevated sweat secretion each time the triggering event is remembered.
  • Inability to remember important details of the traumatic event.
  • Feeling psychically distant, numb, and paralyzed from any normal emotional experience.
  • Losing interest in hobbies and amusements.
  • Show signs of hyperactivity: difficulty sleeping, irritability, inability to concentrate or to be alarmed very easily.

The symptoms last at least one month and affect the patient’s ability to resume normal life at home, at work or in social situations.

4. Prevention


There is evidence that traumatized people who receive psychological support and specialized counselling immediately after suffering the triggering episode are less likely to suffer post-traumatic stress syndrome.

That is why it is recommended that after a trauma a specialized professional be used.

5. Types

Within post-traumatic stress syndrome, experts distinguish between the acute type, which manifests itself during the first month to three months after the trauma; and the latent type, which can appear at least six months after the triggering event.

But, in addition, there is another classification depending on the symptom picture of the patient:

  • The patient continuously relives the traumatic event, which produces repetitive memories of the event that, in most cases, are also mixed with nightmares.
  • This causes annoying reactions of the person to situations that remind him/her of the fact.
  • In some cases, the maneuver adopted is evasion: the patient shows emotional insensitivity and indifference to daily activities and evades places or thoughts that remind him of the event.
  • Hyper excitation means that the person continuously examines what surrounds him or her to detect signs of danger, which makes it difficult for the person to concentrate and causes continuous shocks. This can trigger irritation or anger attacks.
  • The patient may also face the traumatic event through negative thoughts and moods. This leads to guilt or a tendency to blame others for the event, and loss of interest in daily activities.

6. Diagnosis


To diagnose this disorder, the specialist will ask the patient how long the symptoms last.

Generally speaking, it is called post-traumatic stress syndrome if the symptom picture prevails for more than 30 days.

Similarly, physical examinations and blood tests may be performed to determine if there is another illness with the same symptoms.

7. Treatments

The treatment is long-term, which explains the high degree of abandonment of therapy. It is estimated that 75 percent of treated patients drop out.

The therapy is based on a combination of drugs and psychotherapy. The drugs used are aimed at treating the various symptoms of the syndrome, taking into account the most pronounced. Antidepressants and anxiolytics are commonly prescribed.

Psychotherapy is aimed at developing relaxation techniques, such as learning to breathe correctly in the face of a crisis caused by the syndrome.

This treatment can be combined with cognitive methods to rationalize traumatic events and also with shock therapy, in which the situation is recreated to help the victim overcome it and lose the fear it caused.

8. Other data

Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) What is it Diagnosis and Treatments

Most people who have suffered trauma do not get post-traumatic stress, a fact that still has no explanation.

Moreover, contrary to popular belief, the severity of the syndrome does not depend on the nature of the trauma that triggers it.

The reaction to a difficult and unusual situation depends very much on the sensitivity of the people affected and their resources for dealing with the trauma.

In part, this is determined by the genetic characteristics of each person, but also influences the personality and the specific life situation that the patient is going through, whether or not he has suffered other traumas in the past or the family and social fabric that can support him.

It can appear at any age, although it is more frequent among young people, perhaps because they have a greater chance of being exposed to triggering traumas. It is also more common in individuals who are socially isolated.