What causes Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

There are many different factors that contribute to how someone responds to a trauma and whether PTSD develops:

• Getting physically hurt during an experience
• Repeated traumatic life experiences
• Current and past mental health issues
• Hormones and chemicals in the brain
• Lack of support from loved ones or professionals
• Dealing with extra stressors (e.g., loss a job, loss of a loved one)

Simply put: people develop PTSD when they encounter an experience that overwhelms their ability to cope.

Whenever we experience something that is overwhelming, our body goes into overdrive to help us try to cope. We may find the coping strategies we have learned throughout our life to be less effective following a traumatic experience. In response, our brain tries to build a barrier to protect us from the thoughts, feelings, and memories of the trauma. This. is. normal. No one wants to think about a traumatic event. However, the more we try to avoid the traumatic thoughts, feelings, and memories, the more we can’t escape them.

PTSD occurs when our survival mechanism that is attempting to help us cope with the trauma overextends and starts to negatively impact our lives. Treatment therefore focuses on helping us create new ways of responding to trauma, while gaining the skills needed to live a life according to our values.

Click here to find out more about treatment options.

About Angela Izmirian, Ph.D.

Angela is a licensed psychologist at Portland Psychotherapy. Her specialties include trauma/abuse, relationship issues, couples therapy, ethnic minority issues, body image, loss/grief, depression, anxiety, transgender assessments, and sexual orientation & gender identity exploration.
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