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What Increases the Risk of Developing PTSD?

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

Nature of Trauma

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. While not everyone who experiences trauma develops PTSD, certain factors can increase an individual's vulnerability to the disorder. In this blog post, we will explore some of the key vulnerability factors that can heighten the risk of developing PTSD.

1. Severity and Nature of Trauma:

The severity and nature of the traumatic event play a significant role in vulnerability to PTSD. Events involving physical harm, sexual assault, combat exposure, or life-threatening situations are more likely to lead to the development of PTSD. The intensity and duration of the trauma can impact the individual's ability to cope and process the experience effectively.

2. Previous Traumatic Experiences:

Having a history of prior traumatic experiences can increase vulnerability to PTSD. If an individual has previously experienced trauma, it can make them more susceptible to developing symptoms of PTSD when exposed to subsequent traumatic events. The cumulative impact of multiple traumatic experiences can amplify the risk.

3. Lack of Social Support:

A strong support system can serve as a protective factor against the development of PTSD. Conversely, individuals with limited social support or a lack of close relationships may be more vulnerable. The availability of emotional support, understanding, and validation from friends, family, or support groups can help buffer the effects of trauma.

4. Childhood Adversity:

Experiencing adverse events during childhood, such as abuse, neglect, or household dysfunction, can increase the vulnerability to developing PTSD later in life. Adverse childhood experiences can shape an individual's ability to cope with trauma, influence their stress response system, their beliefs and impact their overall mental well-being.

5. Pre-existing Mental Health Conditions:

Having pre-existing mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression, can make individuals more vulnerable to developing PTSD. These conditions can influence how individuals process and respond to traumatic events, making them more susceptible to experiencing the debilitating effects of PTSD symptoms.

6. Lack of Coping Skills:

The absence of effective coping strategies and resilience can increase vulnerability to PTSD. Individuals who lack healthy coping mechanisms or have difficulty regulating their emotions may struggle to process and recover from traumatic events, heightening their risk of developing PTSD.

7. Perceived Lack of Control or Helplessness:

Feeling a lack of control or helplessness during a traumatic event can contribute to vulnerability for PTSD. If an individual perceives themselves as unable to influence or escape from the traumatic situation, it can intensify the psychological impact and increase the likelihood of developing PTSD symptoms.


While anyone can potentially develop PTSD after experiencing trauma, certain vulnerability factors can increase the risk. The severity and nature of the trauma, previous traumatic experiences, lack of social support, childhood adversity, pre-existing mental health conditions, lack of coping skills, and perceived lack of control or helplessness are all factors that can heighten vulnerability. It is important to recognise these factors and seek appropriate support and treatment if you or someone you know is at risk for or experiencing symptoms of PTSD. With interventions and support, individuals can begin the healing process and work on improving their mental health.

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