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Why Do Only Some Trauma Survivors Get PTSD?

Why Do Only Some Trauma Survivors Get PTSD?Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is not thoroughly understood. Much research has been and continues to be conducted, but many aspects of this condition are still open to research, interpretation and debate. However certain patterns indicate why some people are more susceptible than others to developing PTSD. Genetic factors as well as childhood experiences may play a role in the development of PTSD. The nature of the trauma in question may also play a role. Interpersonal trauma tends to elicit PTSD more often than impersonal trauma. For example a fire at a person’s home is more likely to result in PTSD than a fire in the workplace.

Risk Factors for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Certain factors indicate a predisposition to PTSD in some individuals. Many of these factors involve childhood experiences and may correlate to other psychological issues such as depression and fear of attachment. Factors that put some individuals at greater risk than others of developing PTSD include the following:

  • A history of PTSD in the family
  • Childhood exposure to abuse or family violence
  • Having a parent who engages in maladaptive responses to their own PTSD or other mental health concerns
  • Childhood trauma
  • Having been the victim of bullying in school
  • Chronic adversity, especially in childhood
  • Having been raised in foster care
  • Depression
  • Ethnicity
  • Proximity to, duration of and severity of the traumatic event in question
  • Having experienced mob violence
  • Experiencing trauma in the past that established a pattern of response to trauma, making the individual more sensitive to future traumatic experiences
  • Being employed in occupations such as soldier, police officer or firefighter that expose the individual to traumatic experiences

Evolutionary Psychology and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

The least understood aspect of PTSD involves evolutionary psychology. Some research suggests that PTSD symptoms correspond to responses to fear and threats exhibited by animals. According to this perspective PTSD may be a result of overstimulation of these response triggers in certain individuals. This phenomenon may explain why traumatic events peculiar to the modern age, mechanized warfare for example, tend to elicit PTSD more frequently than events such as fires that are part of genetic or inherited memory. The brain is simply not hardwired to cope with recent phenomena such as mechanized warfare and car or airplane crashes.

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