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Does the Experience of Traumatic Events Lead to PTSD All the Time?

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Updated January 29, 2012

Question: Does the Experience of Traumatic Events Lead to PTSD All the Time?

It has been found that a number of different traumatic events lead to PTSD, such as combat, motor vehicle accidents, sexual assault, and natural disasters. But does experiencing a traumatic event mean you will definitely develop PTSD?

Answer:

Traumatic Events and Risk for PTSD

In short, the answer is no. Just because a person experiences a traumatic event does not necessarily mean that they will develop PTSD. But certain events do appear to increase your risk of developing PTSD.

To get a better idea of how trauma leads to PTSD, one group of researchers interviewed 5,877 people from communities across the United States and looked at the rates with which certain traumatic events led to PTSD among the men and women interviewed.

For men, the traumatic event most likely to be connected with PTSD was being raped. Approximately 65 percent of men who said that this was the most upsetting traumatic event they had experienced developed PTSD as a result of this event.

Other traumatic events that had a high likelihood of leading to PTSD for men were:

  • combat (38.8%)
  • childhood neglect (23.9%)
  • childhood physical abuse (22.3%)
  • sexual molestation (12.2%).

Similarly to men, the traumatic event most likely to be associated with PTSD for women was being raped. Approximately 45.9% of women who said that this was the most upsetting traumatic event they had experienced developed PTSD as a result of this event.

Other traumatic events that were more highly connected to the development of PTSD for women were:

  • being threatened with a weapon (32.6%)
  • sexual molestation (26.5%)
  • being physically attacked (21.3%)
  • childhood physical abuse (48.5%)
  • childhood neglect (19.7%).

Who Is at Reduced Risk For Developing PTSD After a Traumatic Event?

A number of risk factors for developing PTSD after a traumatic event have been identified, including the type of traumatic event, history of mental illness, and a person's response at the time of the event.

A number of factors have also been found to reduce risk for developing PTSD after the experience of a traumatic event, such as:

Getting Help

Just as not all traumatic events always lead to PTSD, not everyone who has experienced a traumatic event will develop PTSD. Of course, other difficulties may develop, such as depression or substance use. This is why it is very important to seek out help if you have experienced a traumatic event.

You can find out more information about treatment providers in your area who might offer some of these treatments through UCompare HealthCare from About.com, as well as the Anxiety Disorder Association of America.

Sources:

Kessler, R.C., Sonnega, A., Bromet, E., Hughes, M., & Nelson, C.B. (1995). Posttraumatic stress disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey. Archives of General Psychiatry, 52, 1048-1060.

Ozer, E.J., Best, S.R., Lipsey, T.L., & Weiss, D.S. (2003). Predictors of posttraumatic stress disorder and symptoms in adults: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 52-73.

  1. About.com
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  5. Traumatic Events Lead to PTSD - What Traumatic Events Lead to PTSD

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