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Causes of posttraumatic stress disorder include psychological, evolutionary, and genetics. First, the experience of psychological trauma is a major factor for the development of posttraumatic stress disorder.

The experience of a wide range of events produces intense, negative feelings of fear, helplessness, and/or horror.

For example, the following represent traumatic events that might produce PTSD in an individual:

  • Experience/witness of childhood or adult abuse: physical, emotional, sexual
  • Experience/witness of physical assault, which include adult experience with sexual assault, drug addiction, medical complications, and related illnesses
  • Employment in occupations that expose one to war or disaster
  • Receiving a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness

These are just examples of psychological trauma that might produce PTSD in an individual and contribute to an inability to cope with everyday life. These are symptoms that make it easier for clinicians to diagnose PTSD in individuals.

Evolutionary psychologists suggest that there are different types of fears and reactions that may give credence to ancestral environments. For example, mammals generally display a defensive behavior depending upon how close the threat is.

In addition, a heightened memory of past threat may increase avoidance of situations as well as serve as a prerequisite for developing better defensive behaviors. However, PTSD is much more common among warfare survivors.

Lastly, genetics plays an integral role in understanding PTSD. There is evidence to suggest that PTSD is indeed hereditary. In addition, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and PTSD share some of the same genetic variances. Alcohol and related substance abuse dependencies share greater genetic similarities.