Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a natural emotional response to frightening or dangerous experiences that involve actual or threatened serious harm to oneself or others.

Causes and Risk Factors

PTSD is a response to traumatic life events. Some people experience traumatic events and do not develop PTSD while others do. Risk factors can make a person more likely to get PTSD, where protective factors reduce the likelihood of developing the disorder.

Risk factors for PTSD include:
  • experiencing dangerous events and trauma in the past
  • having a history of mental health or substance use problems
  • feeling helplessness or extreme fear
  • having a small support system after the traumatic event
  • feeling guilt, shame or responsibility for the event or its outcome
  • experiencing additional stress after the event (e.g. loss of a loved one, pain and injury, loss of a job or home).
Protective factors that may reduce the risk of developing PTSD include:
  • having support from other people, such as friends and family
  • participating in a support group after a traumatic event
  • feeling confident about one’s own actions regarding the event
  • having a coping strategy or a way of getting through the traumatic event
  • being able to act and respond effectively despite feeling fear.

Signs and Symptoms

PTSD usually appears within three months of the event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear for years. Common symptoms include:

  • re-experiencing the traumatic event over and over
  • having recurring nightmares
  • experiencing unwanted, disturbing memories of the event
  • acting or feeling as if the event is happening again
  • feeling upset when reminded of the event
  • staying away from activities, places or people that are reminders of the traumatic experience
  • avoiding friends and family
  • losing interest in activities that used to be enjoyable
  • experiencing difficulty having loving feelings
  • being unable to feel pleasure
  • constantly worrying
  • having a hard time concentrating
  • getting angry easily
  • having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • fearing harm from others
  • experiencing sudden attacks of dizziness, fast heartbeat or shortness of breath
  • having fears of dying.

PTSD usually appears within three months of the event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear for years.

When to seek Help
Getting timely help and support may prevent normal stress reactions from getting worse. This may mean turning to family and friends who will listen and offer comfort.

If symptoms persist for an extended period of time more help may be needed. PTSD can only be diagnosed by a mental health professional, therefore, if you feel you are experiencing the signs and symptoms associated with PTSD we encourage you to seek out professional assistance.

A member of your peer support team can help put you in touch with professional resources.