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What are PTSD Stressors and How Can Counseling Help?

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Understanding PTSD

For the majority of people who experience even the most horrific combat situations or personal assault, the setback is just temporary, according to the Mayo Clinic. Combating that degree of PTSD requires effective treatment, and one of the first steps is diagnosis by a trained professional. The counselor will first address the PTSD stressors, also know as the PTSD trigger – identifying these are key to moving forward.

Such PTSD stressors can permanently alter someone’s view of the world. An important step along the journey to recover a sense of security and start life anew is understanding what event might have caused the PTSD. Combat trauma is the most well-known, but PTSD stressors are much more varied than just the “shell shock” events. Less publicized stressors may not even involve contact, like witnessing a rape or having a loved one die during a violent episode while you go unharmed.

It’s also important to recognize that people experience PTSD stressors in their own way, and may differ quite a bit in their reactions based on what type of traumatic event they experienced.

Here are some of the most evident and common PTSD stressors:

Combat PTSD stressors

The VA considers the following to be PTSD stressors:

  • Exposure to death
  • Threatened death
  • Actual serious injury
  • Threatened serious injury
  • Actual sexual violence
  • Threatened sexual violence

Non-Combat PTSD stressors that affect military members

PTSD stressors can also happen to military members while they’re not in combat situations. Woods Lawyers, which represents military members in VA claims, gave these examples: “Suppose you were in a serious car accident while serving active-duty and a fellow service member died. Because you were close to the deceased service member, you had a very tough time getting over their death. Now you have unreasonable fears, anxiety, and depression that is related to the wreck.”

Other examples of non-combat military-related PTSD stressors include serious car accidents, training accidents, sexual trauma or witnessing a rape.

When everyday life involves PTSD stressors

PTSD is not the exclusive property of those who serve in the military. A number of stressors occur when bad things happen in everyday life.

The Mayo Clinic lists these non-military events that can also lead to PTSD.

  • Childhood physical abuse
  • Sexual violence
  • Physical assault
  • Being threatened with a weapon
  • An accident

Other stressors may include fire, natural disaster, mugging, robbery, plane crash, kidnapping or even a life-threatening medical diagnosis.

The event does not determine whether you get PTSD independently, Mayo Clinic notes.  “Some factors may make you more likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic event, such as experiencing intense or long-lasting trauma [or] having other mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression.”

Sounds like me, now what?

It’s important to seek help, especially if you experience PTSD stressors and can’t move forward.”Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms may start within one month of a traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear until years after the event,” the Mayo Clinic explained.

A few self-care steps involve techniques like anticipating and managing triggers and striving to get adequate sleep. But PTSD can leave its victims weak and troubled, and beyond the help of simple friendship or self-care.

“PTSD symptoms can vary in intensity over time,” the Mayo Clinic explained. “You may have more PTSD symptoms when you’re stressed in general, or when you come across reminders of what you went through.

Getting treatment after PTSD symptoms develop can be critical to reduce symptoms and improve life quality.

When to see a doctor, counselor or both

If you’ve recognized yourself or a loved one as having experienced a PTSD stressor and not moved on after a few weeks, it’s important to seek help.”Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms may start within one month of a traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear until years after the event,” the Mayo Clinic explained.

If you have suicidal thoughts, don’t wait

If anyone reading this material has suicidal thoughts, get help right away. Call a suicide hotline number for immediate help and resources. In the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor. Use that same number and press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.


PTSD counselors at Real Life Counseling are trained to recognize PTSD stressors. They help people suffering from PTSD cope with the symptoms and live their best lives.

To learn more about the PTSD counseling we offer, reach out to us today. We’re here for you.