What causes PTSD?
Not just combat. Any kind of horrific event that makes a person think they could be severely injured or killed can trigger PTSD. We emphasize can because it doesn’t mean it necessarily will. One study determined that approximately 75 percent of Americans have had a traumatic experience significant enough to cause PTSD, but only about 10 to 25 percent of those actually develop the disorder. Experts do not fully agree as to why some do and some don’t, but it seems that the intensity of the experience or multiple experiences has a lot to do with it. In addition, if a person has been traumatized at a younger age (physical or sexual abuse, abandonment, kidnapping, assault, etc.) it increases their likelihood of developing PTSD as an adult.
Experiences that can produce PTSD are combat, sexual and physical assault, being held hostage, terrorism, torture, natural and man-made disasters, accidents, receiving a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness, violating one’s conscience by engaging in mutilation or other violations of the Law of Armed Conflict or the killing of innocents (accidentally or on purpose) in life-threatening situations. Even witnessing threatening, mutilating or deadly events or hearing about them happening to a family member or other close associate can cause PTSD. It can be especially severe or long-lasting when the trauma comes from an intentional human act, rather than from an accident or a natural disaster.