Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: by Santana Flint

PTSD is a very serious anxiety disorder that effects about 7.7 million adults in America. PTSD can occur after a traumatic event such as, sexual assault, abuse, an accident, and most commonly known in people who have served in the war. This is important to understand because much of the time in someones life is in college and during this age a lot of events happen, and much of these events can be very dangerous and traumatizing. It is important to have some knowledge around this subject, especially since it is very likely people you know have been through some traumatic event because 50 to 90 percent of people do in there life time. Within this 50 to 90 percent, 8 percent of people develop full PTSD. Although only 8 percent of people are actually diagnosed with full PTSD many people still are effected greatly after such a traumatic event. One way this could effect college students is by the fact that 1 in 4 women in college will experience sexual assault with in their 4 years of school. Even more surprising is that this year at Coe college we have had the most reported sexual assaults in Coe's history.("Post-traumatic stress disorder," 2012)

What is PTSD?

PTSD is an acronym for post-traumatic stress disorder and is anxiety disorder that affects people who have survived a traumatic event, such as a serious accident, sexual assault, abuse, or other life threatening situations.(Posttraumatic stress disorder, 2013) PTSD was really starting to be understood and studied after the Vietnam war and was given the name official name post-traumatic stress disorder around 1980. Before this PTSD was known by various names such as, shell shock, railway spine, traumatic (war)
neurosis, and rape trauma syndrome. These traumatic events are out of the realm of "normal" traumatic life events. These events are usually life threatening and people with PTSD tend to still be affected by the incident months and years after its over. Some symptoms include, intense flash backs, avoidance of triggering situations, changes in personality and values, and hyper-arousal.This symptoms can easily lead to things such as insomnia, nightmares, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, self-harm, and suicide.("Post-traumatic stress disorder," 2012)

Who is effected?

Anyone, at any age is susceptible to PTSD, and not just someone who has personally experienced a serious event such as

sexual assault, abuse, and war trauma. Other people who have experienced a sudden death of a loved one, or have a family member or friend experience some sort of danger or harm are also susceptible to PTSD. In the graph to the right shows the likelihood of getting PTSD in different situations. The figure shows that 30% of military veterans, 35% adult rape victims, 45% of battered women, and 60% of abused children are diagnosed with PTSD. As you can see not everyone who experiences a traumatic event gets PTSD. Two main factors that play a role in getting PTSD are resilience and risk factors. Risk factors are factors that put a person at higher risk of getting PTSD. Some of these factors include: a history traumatic events, a history of mental illness, experiencing the death of others, getting physically harmed, lack of social support, and the addition of other distresses after the event.(Pasquill , 2013)
Resilience factors are positive factors that can help someone persevere through such a horrible event. This resilience factors include: family and friend support, seeking professional help after the event, using coping strategies when feeling fear, and feeling confident and good about ones decisions when faced with danger. There is work being done looking at various these factors as well as how the amgdala in the brain is related to PTSD in the hope of using this information to preventing people from getting this disorder.(" ptsd tied," 2012)

What's going in the brain?

The amgdala is a part of the limbic system in the brain that is known to be used for emotion and memory processing. This is of importance because vivid emotional memories play a large role in PTSD. There definitely is evidence supporting the correlation between traumatic events and the amygdala. Although there is
external image 220px-PTSD_stress_brain.gifstill confusion over whether damage or changes to the amygdala effects how one might deal with trauma or if after someone going through a traumatic event might create changes in the amygdala. What makes this research difficult is the inability to look at the amygdala before a traumatic event due to not knowing when someone will experience a traumatic event. With more research around this connection between the amgdala or other parts of the brain we could have the ability to lower the percentage of people getting PTSD. Some evidence shows that the amygdala in the brain of PTSD victims tend to be smaller. Because of this, there has been discussion about putting restrictions on people with smaller amygdalas going into the military based on the idea that these people are more susceptible to develop PTSD.(" ptsd tied," 2012)

How to treat PTSD victims?

Since different people react differently to traumatic events and actually having PTSD there are many different ways of going about treating someone with PTSD. Here are a some of the methods in treating PTSD
(National Institutes of Health )
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy(CBT): There are three mains parts to CBT
    • Exposure Therapy: helps victims cope with their feelings through the exposure of the traumatic event in a safe way.
    • Cognitive restructuring: A way to relieve feelings such as self-blaming by understanding what really occurred during the event.
    • Stress inoculation training: Works by lowering the symptoms of stress, and also involves understanding what happened.
  • Medication: Usually used while doing other types of therapy
    • sertraline (Zoloft) or paroxetine (Paxil) are two offten used antidepressants to treat the symptoms of PTSD
  • Psychotherapy: The use of talking with mental health professionals or in groups. Also can involve the support of family and friends.
  • Virtual reality games: Studies show games such as tetris can help PTSD victims by focusing on highly engaging visual task to help reduce flash backs.

What can friends, family, and partners do?

The best things one could do for someone that has PTSD:(National Institutes of Health )
  • Be there for support
  • Try to be understanding, but know that you can never know exactly what they are going through
  • Learn about PTSD
  • Be Patient: it can take a very long time for someone to get over a very traumatic event and it is very easy to get frustrated with how this person may have changed. Getting upset with them will only make things worse
  • Know you can't be the one to "fix" them: encourage them to get professional help in a positive and supporting way
  • Talk and listen to them carefully when they need it
  • Invite them along to do positive activities: Don't act as though their PTSD doesn't allow them to have fun
  • Take comments about them harming themselves very seriously and talk to them


Post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd). (2012, may). Retrieved from

National Institutes of Health (n.d.). Post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd). Retrieved from

Posttraumatic stress disorder. In (2013). wikipedia. Retrieved from

ptsd tied to changes in brain's 'amygdala' . (2012). Retrieved from

Sher, L. (2004). Recognizing post-traumatic stress disorder. oxfordjournals, 97, Retrieved from

Pasquill , F. (2013). Ptsd statistics. Retrieved from