Most people exposed to a major traumatic event do not develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), nor is PTSD passed through genetics (Yehuda, Bierer, 2009). There is no rhyme or reason as to who gets PTSD and who does not. To make things worse, experts find evidence to support some risk factors, while others fail to find supporting evidence of the same factors. One aspect majority agreed upon is dose-response (Dead Link Removed), as this encompasses multiple factors.
Dose-response refers to the longevity and compounding severity of trauma exposure. For example, in the United States, lifetime trauma exposure is 50-60%, PTSD prevalence is 7.8%; in Algeria, trauma exposure is 92%, PTSD prevalence is 37.4%. Dose-response association has held up whether the traumatic experience has been sexual assault, war-zone, natural disaster or terrorist attack (Galea et al., 2002).
To put this as simply as possible, the longer you experience the trauma and the more trauma you endure, the greater risk to develop PTSD! This cumulative trauma effect has been demonstrated for a wide range of adult outcomes, including depression, suicide, PTSD, substance abuse disorders, heart disease, lung cancer, diabetes and other such associated health risk factors as obesity, smoking, sexual promiscuity and lack of exercise (Anda et al., 2006).
There are further risk factors for PTSD, which include pre-traumatic, peri-traumatic and post-traumatic factors.
Pre-traumatic factors include--though are not limited to--age, gender, trauma history, education and the like. Being a women increases risk for PTSD due to increased risk of child sexual abuse, rape or intimate partner violence (Link Removed). However, women are more favourably responsive to treatment than males.
Peri-traumatic risk factors concern the nature of the traumatic experience, such as dose-response, exposure to other atrocities, panic attacks and other emotions.
The primary post-traumatic factor is whether or not the person received social support (social learning theory). Immediate social support is quite possibly the most important factor to reduce the likelihood of developing PTSD. Persistence of PTSD is found to be based on current tense than past tense factors, such as present emotional support, social support and whether there are current adverse events occurring within your life (Link Removed).
Social support might be particularly applicable to child victims of trauma given that the response of caretakers is a strong predictor of a child's post traumatic reaction. While many variables exist as potential risk factors, a person must understand that risk factors are primarily correlation and not necessarily the cause of the adverse outcome.
While there are no specific knowns about who will, and will not, obtain PTSD, the most common attribute associated with risk for PTSD is the peri-traumatic circumstances. One can typically ascertain a risk value based on the type of traumatic event, in other words.
I could include a laundry list of items that are used to govern risk in obtaining PTSD. However, the real question is not "Am I at risk for PTSD?" but rather "What are the pathways through which risk factors are associated with PTSD?" (Dead Link Removed)