What is post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

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An NCBI article titled ‘Posttraumatic Stress Disorder’ defines Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a severe psychiatric disorder that results after exposure to actual or potential harm, sexual assault or loss of life. It is linked to cognitive and functional impairment. Effective treatment and a reduction in the long-term effects of PTSD require early diagnosis and intervention. 


In young adults and teenagers, PTSD arises as an after-effect of a specific traumatic experience in a person’s life. Going through a life-threatening circumstance, being sexually assaulted, being a victim of a natural disaster or being physically assaulted are some of the frequent stressful situations that can cause the disorder. 

PTSD also develops after undergoing a frightening incident, such as assault, abuse or a circumstance where the person’s life is at threat. Accidents can also bring about the disorder.

It may sometimes be a symptom of or a precursor to other anxiety disorders or mood disorders like depression. While stressful and anxious feelings are likely to be brought on by traumatic events, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) involves experiencing severe symptoms. People react to the same incident in different ways, and PTSD’s causes are very individualised.

With PTSD, the patient is unable to get over the terrible event and continues to experience nightmares, flashbacks or troubling thoughts about it. Most people need time to recover from a stressful occurrence.

A more severe reaction to a persistently traumatic situation, such as abuse, neglect, or frequently occurring violence, is known as complex PTSD (C-PTSD).

Is PTSD common among young adults? 

Teenagers frequently experience trauma during their adolescent years. Recent research indicates that PTSD among teenagers is becoming more common. Teenage girls have either been the victim of or sought to be the victim of a sexual assault at some point in their lives, according to the National Survey of Children’s Exposure. 

In a different research, teenagers were questioned if they had ever been the victim of sexual or physical assault or if they had seen any violence. According to the survey, 47% of these teenagers had either been victims of or witnessed physical or sexual abuse.

The circumstances and causes of trauma vary from person to person, even though many youths in today’s society may encounter a painful event. Awareness among parents and young adults helps in early diagnosis and better handling of the situation.

What are the symptoms of PTSD? 

After a traumatic encounter, symptoms may manifest. Usually, within six months of the event, they become apparent.

The primary signs of PTSD include,

  • Flashbacks of the incident,
  • Avoidance and numbing. This involves trying to stay occupied and away from activities or thoughts that could bring back memories of the traumatic experience.
  • Staying alert and on guard at all times in case it happens again.

If any individual experiences one or more of these signs, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have PTSD.

PTSD patients might also encounter,

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Issues with eating or sleeping
  • Angry or irritable mood
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Diarrhoea
  • Muscle pain
  • Having trouble recalling the complete traumatic events.

Advanced symptoms of PTSD 

Here are certain symptoms of PTSD in young adults when a child is experiencing trauma.

  • Modified sleeping and eating patterns
  • Poor performance in school or college
  • Isolated socially from friends and family
  • Overreacts to trivial issues
  • Emotional indifference
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and friends
  • Having trouble focusing and paying attention
  • Shows signs of ongoing anxiety
  • Turns rebellious
  • Demonstrates irate or violent behaviour
  • Weariness or drowsiness
  • Panic attacks
  • Vomiting, persistent headaches or nausea

What causes PTSD in young adults? 

Trauma is, by definition, the root cause of PTSD in young adults. However, those with a history of anxiety problems or a family history of PTSD are more prone to experience it.


Extreme stress is the trigger for every case of PTSD. This subjective tension most frequently manifests as physical violence (being wounded by another person) or sexual assault. PTSD affects women about twice as frequently as it does males.

Inherited features

If a young adult has a family member who suffers from anxiety disorders, this is a significant indicator that they may have PTSD.

What are the risk factors associated with PTSD? 

Any age group can suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. The following things, however, could increase the risk of developing PTSD after a traumatic event.

  • Suffering a severe trauma
  • Having gone through additional trauma earlier in life, such as being abused as a child.
  • Having a profession that puts you at an increased risk of being exposed to traumatic situations, such as being in the military.
  • Having issues with drug or alcohol abuse or excessive drinking.
  • Not having a strong network of relatives and friends for support.
  • Having close family members who struggle with anxiety or depression.

What are the complications associated with PTSD? 

The victims and relatives of posttraumatic stress disorder are severely affected. PTSD frequently coexists with conditions such as,

  • Mood disorders
  • Anxiety and panic disorders
  • Disorder due to substance abuse
  • Neurological conditions such as dementia

Patients with PTSD often experience significant disability, and comorbid conditions may contribute to the chronic nature of the illness. 

According to studies, 51.9% of men who also suffer from PTSD abuse alcohol, states NCBI. They also report the early onset of alcohol dependence, increased cravings, and legal issues related to alcohol abuse. Suicide attempts and ideas are more common overall. Traumatic injury or changes in the brain’s functions can potentially cause dementia.

Treatments for PTSD 

Teenagers and young adults frequently react to treatment differently, making PTSD treatment challenging. Finding the best method to handle a patient’s PTSD and working with them to alleviate symptoms is best is one of the main objectives for any therapist. 

While medications may be beneficial in some circumstances, it is not typically advised. Antidepressants may help with some anxiety symptoms, but benzodiazepines and sedatives are often risky to administer because they have little effect on a patient’s symptoms.


Medication for PTSD is often used to treat the debilitating symptoms of sadness and anxiety linked to the disease along with the flashbacks or PTSD itself. Medications assist a teen’s function or lower the risk of self-harm or suicide.

Talk therapy

A person with PTSD may benefit greatly from talk therapy. Some of these include a controlled, gradual approach to dealing with the traumatic event, which aids in the development of healthy coping mechanisms to deal with the occurrence and associated reminders rather than experiencing uncontrolled, harsh emotions due to the disorder. 

A therapist can assist a patient in recognising the responses relating to memories of the trauma and progressively rewiring their responses to be healthier over time.

Group Therapy 

Group therapy can be particularly beneficial for someone with PTSD as it gives them access to a community of people who can empathise with them on a personal level. Additionally, it provides a person with a safe environment where they can feel understood as they start to confront both the original traumatic incident they experienced and the symptoms that followed.

Prevention of PTSD 

Ensuing traumatic occurrences, the following were found to be protective factors against developing PTSD, meaning individuals who engaged in them did not have more severe symptoms over time.

  • Maintaining contact with and receiving assistance from significant others in life.
  • Use of humour and uplifting feelings
  • Making sense of the trauma in a healthy way
  • Revealing the trauma to family members
  • Choosing to identify as a survivor rather than a victim
  • Assisting others in their healing
  • Having the conviction that they can cope and manage their emotions.

Nobody can stop the anguish and suffering that are intrinsic to the human condition, and it is unavoidable. There will be enormous losses that we will all have to endure. But we can prevent suffering from coming on top of pain.

Is doctor consultation mandatory? 

The first step in treating post-traumatic stress disorder is having it diagnosed by a doctor. A medical professional will do a physical examination to look for any conditions that might be PTSD triggers. 

A mental health expert will question the patient’s beliefs, feelings, behaviour and background. The responses will assist in identifying a diagnosis and any associated issues.


Extreme levels of emotional, physical and psychological stress can result from a traumatic occurrence for teenagers or young adults. As they process and come to terms with the occurrence, traumatised teens and young adults may find it difficult to open up. 

They might be preoccupied with the how and why of the incident, their role, and how it affected them. Parents can support their teen children experiencing trauma by being patient and understanding with their children.

Teens who have experienced trauma can recover and gain more self-assurance as they get the support and attention they need.


What can cause PTSD in young adults?

PTSD can arise due to the following causes.
1. Child or domestic abuse
2. Sexual or physical abuse
3. Severe accidents 
4. Traumatic exposure at work to horrific events
5. Severe medical issues, such as being hospitalised to intensive care
Experiences related to delivery, such as losing a baby.

What are the symptoms of PTSD in young adults?

Flashbacks, excruciating anxiety, nightmares and uncontrollable thoughts about the incident are a few possible symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

What are the five signs of PTSD? 

Typical signs of PTSD include,
1. Flashbacks (feeling like the trauma is happening right now)
2. Unwanted ideas or visuals
3. Nightmares
4. Severe distress at physical or recollections of the trauma
5. Physical afflictions like pain, sweating, nausea or trembling.


The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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