Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder can follow traumatic experiences, such as the death of a family member or a serious accident, and then usually sets in very quickly after the experience. The therapy concepts are diverse.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental disorder that can occur in a person as a result of a traumatic situation. A traumatic situation is understood to mean a situation in which the health or life of oneself or a person close to you is endangered.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can occur at any age and usually begins immediately after a traumatic situation. It is not uncommon for a person not to have an isolated post-traumatic stress disorder, but also other psychological problems that occur alongside a post-traumatic stress disorder (e.g. depression or anxiety). See healthknowing for What is the Definition of RNA.

The post-traumatic stress disorder shows itself, for example, in the fact that the traumatic situation is often relived repeatedly in thoughts or dreams by the person affected (this is also referred to as so-called flashbacks). Sleep disturbances and feelings of being threatened (e.g. threatened or committed violence by other people) are also among the symptoms that post-traumatic stress disorder can bring with it.


The direct cause of a person developing PTSD is participation in a traumatic situation. The traumatic situation that causes post-traumatic stress disorder can either have been experienced directly by the person, or the person in question was an observer of the situation.

Corresponding traumatic situations would be, for example, war experiences or terrorist attacks, serious accidents, rape, hostage-taking or news about the unexpected death of a loved one.

Research also suggests that post-traumatic stress disorder is more common in people who had mental health problems prior to a traumatic situation, who received little social support, or who had negative childhood experiences.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Post- traumatic stress disorder can occur shortly after a traumatic experience, but also with a considerable time delay. The stressful event keeps returning in nightmares and flashbacks, the oppressive memories cannot be controlled and largely determine how we think and feel.

Partial amnesia, in which important details of the trauma are suppressed from consciousness, is also possible. Patients suffer from great anxiety and helplessness, but are unable to talk about it. Physical pain is felt just as strongly as in the traumatic situation.

In order to protect themselves, those affected avoid all situations that could remind them of the experience, they become indifferent to their surroundings and those around them and become emotionally deadened. In addition, post-traumatic stress disorder affects the vegetative nervous system: Signs of vegetative over-arousal can be difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep, increased irritability, difficulty concentrating and excessive startle.

Many patients lose confidence in themselves and others, and feelings of guilt and shame can escalate to self- loathing. In everyday life, PTSD leads to massive restrictions that can result in job loss and social isolation. Addiction, depression or other mental illnesses often go hand in hand with post-traumatic stress disorder, and existing physical symptoms can worsen massively.

History & Diagnosis

In medicine, there are various manuals that define criteria according to which post-traumatic stress disorder is diagnosed. Prerequisites for diagnosing a post-traumatic stress disorder are, for example, that a person has been confronted with a traumatic experience and reacts to it with strong fear, horror or helplessness.

Other criteria that can indicate post-traumatic stress disorder are persistent reliving of the traumatic situation, avoidance of topics related to the traumatic situation, reduced emotional responsiveness or increased nervousness ; for example, people who have post-traumatic stress disorder show increased startle, sleep problems, difficulty concentrating or increased irritability.

While post-traumatic stress disorder usually occurs in those affected immediately after a traumatic situation, it can also occur with a time delay in some cases.


The risk of complications associated with post-traumatic stress disorder increases with the duration of untreated treatment and depends on the living conditions of the person affected and their ability to get help. The high level of comorbidity in PTSD also plays a role here.

For example, in the case of a chronic course of PTSD, there is an increased abuse of substances, including above all alcohol or non-prescription medication. This onset of addictive behavior causes physical symptoms to join the psychological symptoms after a while, which can further increase the fears of those affected.

In addition, the physical symptoms that result from the body’s constant state of alert can increasingly lead to damage to the cardiovascular system, digestion and other chronic diseases. Overall, the susceptibility to disease is higher. Accident victims with PTSD have, on average, longer hospital stays and a higher risk of injury-related complications.

Depression and personality changes that occur often lead to social complications, which are expressed in isolation or excessive aggression. The tendency to self-injurious behavior is increased, which can go as far as suicide. The mental disorders that occur, above all anxiety disorders and personality disorders, are often a reason for extended therapy.

When should you go to the doctor?

After a traumatic event, you should always talk to a therapist or another person you trust. If increased startleiness, feelings of indifference, and other signs of PTSD occur after the event, it is advisable to see a doctor. Complaints can be reduced with the support of an expert by working through and managing the triggering event. After a trauma or a stressful phase of life, professional advice should be obtained at an early stage, because the earlier a post-traumatic stress disorder is treated, the better the chances of recovery.

People who experience symptoms of PTSD after a serious accident or violent crime should speak to a mental health professional right away. Other contacts are the family doctor, a psychotherapist or the telephone counseling service. If a child shows symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, the pediatrician or a child and adolescent psychologist should be consulted first. The expert can help to find the cause, support the person concerned in processing the trauma and, if necessary, prescribe a suitable medication to counteract the symptoms.

Treatment & Therapy

There are various treatment approaches according to which post-traumatic stress disorder is treated. For example, there is the approach of so-called cognitive behavioral therapy to combat post-traumatic stress disorder. As part of this psychotherapeutic measure, fear management is used, for example.

There are also a number of other psychotherapy concepts in psychology that are specially designed to combat post-traumatic stress disorder.

Another method that is used to combat post-traumatic stress disorder is the so-called EMDR (Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Among other things, this method is based on a combination of a confrontation of the affected person with the stimuli that have caused a post-traumatic stress disorder and very rapid eye movements. The combination should be able to alleviate the severity of the mental illness.

Pharmacotherapy (i.e. therapy with drugs) also has products available that are used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. For example, appropriate medication should reduce anxiety that accompanies post-traumatic stress disorder or alleviate depressive symptoms that the disease can also bring with it.


Since traumatic situations that cause post-traumatic stress disorder are very rarely predictable and are usually not under the control of the person affected, it is very difficult to take preventive measures against post-traumatic stress disorder. However, it can be very important that therapeutic care takes place immediately after a traumatic situation in order to be able to prevent post-traumatic stress disorder.

Post-traumatic stress disorder can be treated successfully if the person concerned seeks therapy. Although the symptoms heal in about 50 percent of those affected without professional help, psychotherapeutic care is still advisable. In the case of untreated PTSD, the experience cannot be fully processed, and the prognosis for the future is poorer in this case.


The aftercare is primarily about the future. Follow-up care for PTSD is useful in terms of prevention and future planning for the patient. The mental state of the patient is strengthened so that future stresses do not trigger a second flare-up.

A chronic course of the disease should be avoided, the risk of a manifestation exists in about one third of those affected. In these cases, they have been suffering from the symptoms for years. Follow-up care is necessary to enable the patient to come to terms with what he has experienced and to restore his quality of life. It is useful so that the person concerned can control their emotions when reminded of the stressful events.

At the same time, his social skills should be stabilized and the reintegration into his usual environment should be completed under supervision. If the patient has difficulties with reintegration despite a stay in the hospital or suffers an unexpected relapse, follow-up care is not only advisable but essential.

You can do that yourself

Patients with post-traumatic stress disorder can learn emergency measures that can make their everyday life significantly easier. It can also support the healing process.

Information about your own clinical picture is very important, this should be done by reading relevant books or guides. The exchange with other affected people, preferably in self-help groups, helps to reduce your own suffering. It can also be advised to do a lot of sporting activities. Because sport of any kind helps in particular with sleep disorders and anxiety, which often occur with post-traumatic stress disorder. It is also very helpful to improve your own sleep quality. In special group seminars, methods can be learned to make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Patients with post-traumatic stress disorder should avoid addictive substances of any kind in everyday life, as this could lead to a worsening of the clinical picture. Legal drugs, such as alcohol or nicotine, can also contribute negatively to delaying the healing process.

It makes sense for those affected by PTSD to involve their own family and, if possible, their circle of friends and acquaintances in the course of the disease. This often requires many explanatory discussions. Patients with a post-traumatic stress disorder should learn to go through the world attentively and mindfully in the long term, because in this way completely new qualities in one’s own person are often discovered. It would also be ideal to let your own creativity run free, for example with a new artistic hobby.