5 Common Causes of PTSD You Should Know

A rising segment of the population is getting older, and demographic patterns around the world are shifting. While many older adults feel fulfillment and happiness in their later years, some struggle with their mental and psychiatric health. 

Understanding, assessing, and treating post-traumatic stress is a topic of special importance to clinicians working with older persons, both Veterans and non-Veterans because post-traumatic stress symptoms can appear or reappear later in life.

Tragically, traumatic situations happen frequently. In reality, 20% of adults in the United States will get PTSD due to a significant traumatic event they experienced in their lifetime, affecting 70% of American adults overall. This means that a staggering 24.4 million people are struggling with a severe mental health problem that requires professional help. 

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder, which was only formally identified in the 1980s, has always troubled people. Because they lived entire lives before PTSD was recognized as a disorder, most seniors struggle for many years before getting the proper diagnosis.

We don’t fully understand why some people bounce back successfully from risky, startling, or terrifying encounters while others experience PTSD. Whatever the reason, an individual with PTSD goes through significant physical, mental, and emotional changes.

These people may, for instance, have higher than average levels of the stress hormones known as “fight or flight,” which keep them alert all the time. Additionally, the hippocampus changes in the brain, which worsens symptoms like flashbacks, anxiety, nightmares, and terrible memories. 

Persons who suffer from PTSD repeatedly experience the traumatic incident that affected them, which has harmful effects that can change their lives.

Photo by TypoArt BS at Shutterstock

What Are the Causes of PTSD?

You may be unaware of some incidents that occurred during a senior’s childhood, adolescence, or adulthood that caused them to develop PTSD in some circumstances. In other situations, a senior will be able to precisely pinpoint the trauma’s root cause. In any case, there is a wide range of reasons for PTSD in older people.

#1 Exposure to War

Older Veterans who have PTSD have been the focus of a lot of research on the condition in elderly adults. Many senior Veterans, particularly combat Veterans, can have traumatic memories of their military service even decades after it has ended. 

Due to their exposure to conflict and war zones, this group of people has greater rates of lifelong trauma exposure and PTSD symptomatology compared to the general population.

PTSD is more common in younger Veterans than it is in older Veterans. Older Veterans have fewer PTSD symptoms, particularly arousal and numbing symptoms, as well as more physical complaints, including eating, sleeping, or memory issues. Seniors also report less depression, anger, and shame than younger Veterans.

In comparison to younger adults, older individuals who encountered trauma later in their lives reported increased avoidance, sleep issues, and hyperarousal. Selective mortality may help to explain some of the variations in symptom presentation.

#2 Birth Trauma

Postnatal post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a form of anxiety disorder. It is also referred to as “birth trauma.” If you endure traumatic situations during childbirth or labor, you could develop postnatal PTSD.

Here are some instances of traumatic incidents that could lead to postnatal PTSD:

  • an unanticipated cesarean section;
  • tough labor and a traumatic, prolonged delivery;
  • emergency treatment;
  • other frightening, unexpected, and shocking birthing experiences.

Some people believe that the arrival of a new child compensates for any traumatic events. Or they may believe that because they are enjoying life as new parents, their traumatic experiences will soon be forgotten.

The bond you have with your infant and the others in your life could be negatively impacted by these traumatic events, though.

Because the experience of giving birth fell short of your expectations, you could feel disappointed. If you thought the childbirth was handled poorly, you can also be upset with the medical professionals.

Photo by Huntstyle at Shutterstock

#3 Natural Disasters

Natural calamities can result in the destruction of houses, neighborhoods, possessions, and even the passing of loved ones. When exposed to life-threatening situations or ones that involve great loss or grief, PTSD can interfere with a person’s life for years before they become aware of the symptoms and seek treatment.

For families already dealing with the loss of their homes and sources of income, PTSD is both crippling and a financial hardship. In addition to the physical damage the natural disasters have inflicted, they also constitute a psychological health “disaster” that, if left untreated, will grow as sufferers struggle to get assistance and experience increasingly terrible physical symptoms wherever they end up living.

Even if one is not directly impacted by the flooding or hurricanes, being near the catastrophe victims can lead to secondary traumatization, a condition that has been observed in the wives of war Veterans, the children of Holocaust survivors, and in medical, social work, and mental health professionals. Trauma can spread from one person to another just like a severe cold does.

#4 Car Accident

PTSD might affect anyone involved in a major car accident. Following a car crash, approximately 9% of persons experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but a far greater percentage—an average of 60%—of those individuals seek mental health care.

By the time they are in their 30s, a large number of young individuals have been involved in some kind of traffic accident. Because of this, the majority of these car crashes will be small. However, when a serious accident occurs, the psychological consequences it can have on you may be more severe while also going unnoticed. It is important to remember that not only the driver but also the passengers and any bystanders run the risk of suffering PTSD after a car accident.

#5 The Loss of a Loved One

One of the aspects of life that people fear the most is death, but it occurs to everyone eventually. However, no one is ever really able to prepare you for the effects of losing somebody you love, or even someone you don’t even know. The unexpected and untimely loss of a loved one is by far the most prevalent kind of traumatic experience reported, according to numerous research. 

The World Health Organization’s “World Mental Health Survey” research indicated there was a 5.2% risk of persons having PTSD when they found out about the untimely loss of someone they loved, even though many people do not go on to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Compared to sadness, PTSD symptoms are far more persistent and can significantly affect your capacity to function during the course of the day. It can manifest itself in a variety of ways, such as having nightmares or insomnia, emotionally reliving past events, avoiding specific circumstances, having palpitations, or having anxiety-related symptoms like hypervigilance. Often, a healthcare professional or other trained expert is needed to evaluate your condition.

While we cannot protect everyone from experiencing this pain and completely remove the danger of tragedies, there are measures to prevent PTSD from developing in those who are in mourning. 

Offering grief counseling may be part of this, beginning in the funeral home where help may be given initially. It can be helpful to distribute booklets explaining PTSD and its effects so that people understand what to look out for in themselves or their family members and seek treatment right away.

You should also read: PTSD Symptoms: 6 HEALTHY Ways Seniors Can Manage Them




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