Causes of PTSD.

PTSD diagnosis. Causes of PTSD

General PTSD Facts

Why is it that when two people experience the same car accident, one may develop PTSD whereas the other doesn’t? Aren’t there fixed causes of PTSD? Isn’t one of the causes of PTSD inheritance or genetics? And why can someone develop PTSD after being bullied for years?
Unfortunately it’s unclear what the causes of PTSD are exactly. Researchers still haven’t found out why some causes of PTSD actually cause PTSD in person A and not in person B.
On this page we will explain why certain people respond differently to the same events and so develop PTSD or not.


At Barends Psychology Practice, we treat post-traumatic stress disorder online and in person. Book your first, free of charge, session now. Go to contact us. (Depending on your health insurance, treatment may be reimbursed).




Causes of PTSD.

Potential causes of PTSD

The current theories that try to explain what the causes of PTSD are focus mainly on the way the mind is affected by traumatic events. Because of the heavy impact of the traumatic event the mind may be unable to process all the information and emotions/feelings in a normal way. Because the mind is unable to process the traumatic event someone may develop PTSD. In other words: All traumatic events can be causes of PTSD. This means that a car accident, sexual, emotional or physical abuse, a robbery or bullying can all lead to the development of PTSD. How an individual is able to process a traumatic event determines whether they are likely to develop PTSD. That is why some people develop PTSD whereas others don’t, even if they experience the same event.
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Another theory suggests that abnormal hormone levels might cause PTSD. Abnormal hormone levels can make people more sensitive for PTSD symptoms. So when someone with abnormal hormone levels experiences a traumatic event, they have a bigger chance of developing PTSD. However, this doesn’t mean someone with abnormal hormone levels will develop PTSD whenever he experiences a traumatic event. But rather, they are at an increased risk of developing it.
This theory is supported by studies that show that people with PTSD continue to produce high amounts of fight or flight hormones, even when there is no danger. It is believed that these increased amounts of fight or flight hormones cause hyper-arousal and numbed feelings in people with PTSD.

Which risk factors contribute to the causes of PTSD?

No risk factor directly causes PTSD, but there are a few risk factors that indirectly increase the chance of developing PTSD.

  • One of the causes of PTSD are traumatic experiences someone faced early in life (since childhood). The amount and severity of traumatic experiences increase the chance that a future ´traumatic´ event may causes PTSD.
  • Inherited mental health risks (depression or anxiety) might increase the chance that a future ´traumatic´ event causes PTSD.
  • Inherited personality traits (think of temperament) may be one of the causes of PTSD development in the future.
  • Having a job that brings you more often in the position of experiencing traumatic events (like soldiers).
  • Lacking a good support system may increase the chance that a future traumatic event causes PTSD. Talking about your feelings and about what happened during the traumatic event helps your mind to process all the information. Especially for people who are being or have been bullied, this is especially essential. If people who are being bullied don’t have a good support system, the chances of them developing PTSD increase drastically.


What can you do to prevent PTSD development?

There are a few things you can do to reduce the chance of getting PTSD. These tips will not help in all cases, but for some people these are very helpful.

  • Right after you experienced a traumatic event talk about it with different people, because talking about the event helps you process the event in a good way. Talk to your partner or friend and tell them about your experience.
  • Write about the event and stick to your own observation. Try to write about it seen through your own eyes. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the facts straight, because it’s all about how you remember it. Your memory is what causes PTSD, not the absolute facts.
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  • It’s not good to avoid thinking of the traumatic event, because it can increase your fears and anxiety.
  • Sometimes it’s good to make an appointment with a counselor to talk about your experience. A counselor can comfort you and defuse some of your fears. They can also give you some tips of what to do when you feel numb, down or have nightmares.
  • Whenever you feel panic or stress, turn to someone who can calm you down and comfort you.
  • Although it is difficult to avoid the causes of PTSD you may reconsider certain jobs if some of your blood relatives have anxiety or depression disorders. It could be a sign that you are more vulnerable to developing PTSD.
  • Take a moment to relax and try to think of nothing. Listen to the sounds around you and focus on the things you feel when you sit down. You’ll see that your muscles relax and that it makes you feel better.