Cumulative Stress and PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the psychological result of experiencing a deeply shocking or disturbing event. Some describe it as a normal emotional response to an abnormally stressful experience. Traditionally, PTSD is understood to be caused by an event such as the following:

  • Near death experiences such as from a violent accident
  • A soldier’s exposure to intense danger or the death of fellow soldiers on the battlefield
  • The shocking death of a loved one or a child
  • Exposure to massive death and destruction following a natural disaster or terrorist attack
  • Personal violence such as rape, robbery or assault1
Cases of PTSD from these situations have been well documented and studied over the last few decades. More and better treatment is available for soldiers, police officers, first responders and victims of violent crime.

Complex PTSD and Ongoing Stress

Although medical professionals previously categorized PTSD to originate from one traumatic event, they now recognize that continuous exposure to stressful situations, or cumulative stress, can also cause symptoms of PTSD. This is referred to as complex PTSD, prolonged duress stress disorder (PDSD) or rolling PTSD. This type of disorder often results from any of the following experiences:

    Mother holding childs hand in shadow
  • Repeated exposure to disaster, accidents, deaths or violent acts (police, firemen, paramedics)
  • Frequent need to deliver traumatic news to others
  • Regular exposure to the abuse of children
  • Regular and repeated exposure to verbal abuse, emotional abuse or threats
  • Long-term exposure to bullying
  • Frequent sexual victimization or abuse
  • Regular, long-term feelings of captivation or powerlessness2
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Symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

The symptoms of PTSD are essentially similar whether the cause is a single event or long-term exposure to ongoing stress, and they can include the following problems:

  • Sleeplessness
  • Nightmares
  • Difficulty managing emotions
  • Uncharacteristic temper that possibly leads to abuse
  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Flashbacks
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Suicidal thoughts and actions3

If left untreated, this level of psychological distress can destroy relationships, ruin personal health and deplete a person of everything he or she once loved.

Successful Treatment of PTSD and Cumulative Stress

PTSD treatment programs develop customized plans based on a patient’s specific needs. While individualized, these treatment plans often involve the following components:

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • Personal counseling
  • Support group meetings
  • Spiritual care
  • Education
  • Medical and nutritional care
  • Introduction to healthy coping and relaxation skills

PTSD treatment has come a long way in recent years, and there is now no need for patients to endure the misery of this disease without help. If you are wrestling with symptoms of PTSD, either from a single event or from cumulative stress, please seek help today for your troubling symptoms. Our caring admissions coordinators are always available to answer any questions you may have and to connect you with the best possible treatment options for your unique needs.

Help for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

If left untreated, PTSD can lead to stress-related physical problems as well as serious depression with suicidal potential. Don’t let this happen to you or to someone you love. Call our 24-hour, toll-free helpline, (877) 345-1887, right now and let us help you find your way to a healthy, productive life.


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By Becca Owens, Contributing Writer


Sources

1 "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder." National Institute of Mental Health, February 2016.

2 Leonard, Jason, "What to know about complex PTSD." Medical News Today, August 28, 2018.

3 "What Is PTSD?" US Department of Veterans Affairs, September 15, 2017.