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What causes PTSD?

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects up to 8 million people every year, according to some estimates, and is more prevalent in females than males. While mostly affecting adults, symptoms can also threaten the mental and physical wellbeing of children. PTSD can’t be cured, but the symptoms can be managed by educating yourself, seeking treatment, taking medication, and attending therapy as directed, and other steps. If you think you have symptoms, don’t ignore them – get help.


According to the Mayo Clinic, PTSD is a mental health condition that’s caused by a horrifying event — either witnessing it or experiencing it. Symptoms can include nightmares, flashbacks, and severe apprehension, plus unmanageable feelings about the trauma.

Most people experiencing trauma could have short-term difficulty coping and adjusting, but with time and self-care, they normally bounce back. If the symptoms worsen, last for months or years, and interfere with daily life, you may have PTSD.


Symptoms of PTSD normally fall into three categories – recreating the event, avoiding reminder triggers, and constant awareness of perceived danger. There are other symptoms, too:

  • Less than normal feeling of self-worth
  • Misplaced guilt or sadness
  • Dissociation, or not being aware of the present
  • Engaging in life-threatening habits like reckless driving
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Chronic pain without a medical justification
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Heart trouble
  • Chronic exhaustion
  • Serious headaches
  • Eating disorders
  • Painful or poor digestion
  • Feeling emotional numbness


  • Physical attack
  • Front line combat
  • Child neglect and/or child abuse
  • Sexual assault or abuse
  • Dangerous life events, such as car crashes, medical emergencies, or house fires
  • Getting hurt
  • Seeing someone else hurt, or noticing a dead body
  • Childhood pain
  • Feeling helplessness, panic or extreme fear
  • Lack of social support after the trauma
  • Coping with extra anxiety after the trauma: divorce, death of a loved one or financial trouble
  • Having a history of substance abuse or mental illness


From the PTSD Alliance:

  • “PTSD affects someone immediately after a traumatic ordeal. If time has passed, someone is no longer at risk for PTSD.” The truth: Symptoms rarely show up until anywhere from one to three months has passed since the trauma happened. Passage of time without obvious signs of the symptoms means the person has developed coping mechanisms, self-help, or undergone other treatment.
  • “Only military veterans experience PTSD.” The truth: PTSD and its symptoms can affect anyone who’s experienced a traumatic event.
  • “Experiencing PTSD is a symptom of mental weakness; people should just “get over” traumatic events of life.” This is not true.


Not every method you use to cope with PTSD works. In fact, avoiding people, places, and things that trigger symptoms may be as harmful as the condition itself. Instead, try a variety of tools, including:

  • The “Window of Tolerance” method, used to recognize and discuss your mental condition.
  • Take slow, deep breaths, anywhere at any time.
  • Authenticate your experience by knowing the condition’s name and symptoms.
  • Take in your senses to help return to the present.
  • Positive thoughts for 12 seconds may be helpful.
  • Try a heavy blanket, weighted or gravity style, to help sleep.
  • Laugh at something – yourself, life.


Diagnosis involves a physical exam and reviewing patient personal history. The exam may uncover:

  • The traumatic event that an individual experienced, witnessed or heard about, and the person’s reaction to that distress (in adults: fear, helplessness, horror; in children: behavior trouble.)
  • How the trauma is re-experienced in someone’s daily life: intrusive thoughts, nightmares, recreating the event, anguish when sparked, flashbacks, in children: recreating the trauma through play.
  • How the individual has survived with the painful memories: avoidance, separating from relationships, obstructed memories, etc.
  • Increased stimulation, including sleeplessness, hyper-vigilance, anger, or being easily frightened.
  • How long a person has suffered from PTSD symptoms.


After diagnosis, your doctor will recommend several treatment options depending on the duration of your condition and the severity of symptoms. Based on your medical, family, and psychological history, some kinds of treatment may be promoted over others. Before making any decisions, ask your doctor about the risks and benefits of treatment, including the use of an innovative new treatment called ketamine infusion therapy.


PTSD is a serious mental health condition that can affect anyone. Its exact cause is unknown, though there are many triggers such as living through a severe trauma or even another mental health disorder. If you think you or a loved one suffer from PTSD, seek help from your doctor, therapist, or an organization like the National Alliance on Mental Illness – which may direct you to a local resource, or the Department of Veterans Affairs.

If you or a loved one have questions about the clinical use of ketamine we can help. Contact us today to learn more about how ketamine can help treat the symptoms of PTSD.