Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Psychology Case Studies Oct 31, 2023

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition. This condition develops after exposure to a traumatic event.


Let us understand PTSD with the help of a case study. This case study explores the life of Sarah, a 32-year-old female combat veteran who is diagnosed with PTSD after serving in a war zone. In this case study, we’ll look at PTSD symptoms, triggers, and treatments. This helps us understand how complex PTSD is and why using various therapies is crucial.


Sarah enlisted in the military when she was 19 and was sent to a war zone at 24. While there, she faced stressful combat situations and saw fellow soldiers lose their lives. Every day, she was exposed to life-threatening conditions. When she returned home after her deployment, Sarah started showing signs of PTSD. She began having intrusive flashbacks, disturbing nightmares, and a constant state of high alertness. Additionally, she struggled with feeling numb, finding it difficult to connect with her feelings and others around her. These symptoms are common indicators of PTSD, often triggered by experiencing traumatic events.


  1. Flashbacks and Nightmares: Sarah experienced vivid, intrusive memories of combat situations. These flashbacks were so intense that she felt as if she were reliving the traumatic events.
  2. Hyperarousal: She was on edge. She started experiencing exaggerated startle responses, difficulty sleeping, and irritability.
  3. Emotional Numbness: Sarah struggled to connect with her emotions and others. This led her to have feelings of detachment and isolation.
  4. Avoidance: She avoided reminders of the traumatic events, including people, places, and activities she once enjoyed.


  1. Loud Noises: Sudden loud noises, such as fireworks or backfiring cars, triggered intense flashbacks and panic attacks, reminding her of gunfire in the war zone.
  2. Crowded Spaces: Large crowds heightened her anxiety, as they reminded her of the lack of personal space and constant vigilance required during deployment.
  3. Combat-related Movies/TV Shows: Watching movies or shows depicting combat situations triggered nightmares and increased her distress.

Following her diagnosis of severe PTSD, Sarah’s treatment plan was comprehensive and tailored to address her specific needs. Here’s a detailed explanation of the different components of her treatment:

  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Sarah underwent Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It is a therapeutic approach that first focuses on identifying distorted thought patterns and then challenging the distorted thought patterns related to her trauma. Through exposure therapy, she confronted her triggers in a controlled environment. This method allowed her to gradually face the situations or stimuli that caused her anxiety and distress. Under the guidance of her therapist, she learned coping strategies. This enables her to manage her emotional responses effectively.
  2. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). During these sessions, she followed the therapist’s hand movements or other forms of bilateral stimulation. This technique facilitated the reprocessing of her traumatic memories. Doing so reduced the emotional charge of these memories, making them less distressing and intrusive.
  3. Medication: Sarah’s treatment plan included prescription medication. She was prescribed antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. Drugs played a crucial role in her recovery. These medications helped regulate her mood and reduce anxiety, providing a stable foundation for her to engage in therapy. The medicines enabled her to focus on the therapeutic process by alleviating the intensity of her symptoms.
  4. Support Groups: Sarah participated in support groups designed for veterans coping with PTSD. These group sessions provided a safe and empathetic environment where she felt a strong sense of belonging and understanding. Engaging with others who had faced similar challenges allowed her to share her experiences and listen to others’ stories. This shared knowledge and validation reduced her feelings of isolation, reinforcing her belief that she was not alone in her struggle.
  5. Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques. Sarah learned mindfulness and relaxation techniques as part of her coping strategies. These techniques, including deep breathing exercises and meditation, were invaluable in managing her anxiety and hyperarousal. By practicing these mindfulness exercises, she could stay grounded during distress. These techniques gave her a practical way to cope with overwhelming emotions, promoting calm and emotional stability.

Through this comprehensive approach, Sarah was able to address the various aspects of her PTSD. The combination of therapy, medication, support from peers, and coping skills equipped her with the tools necessary to navigate her recovery journey.

Progress and Challenges:

As Sarah continued her therapy and received support, her symptoms started to get better. But, her progress was not straightforward; she experienced setbacks. These setbacks were particularly challenging during specific triggers. Such as anniversaries of the traumatic events she had endured or unexpected loud noises that reminded her of the war zone. Despite these challenges, Sarah persevered. With consistent help from her therapist, along with proper medication management that helped stabilize her mood, she found the strength to face these setbacks. The veterans’ support group was crucial for Sarah. She could talk to people who understood her struggles, which made her feel like she belonged. This group, along with therapy and medication, helped her handle tough times. With their help, she made significant progress in her recovery, even when things got hard.


This case study illustrates the complex nature of PTSD. Its impact on daily life and the effectiveness of a comprehensive treatment approach. Sarah’s journey highlights the importance of personalized therapy, social support, and medication in managing PTSD symptoms. While the road to recovery is challenging, with appropriate intervention and support, individuals like Sarah can regain control over their lives and find hope beyond the shadows of their trauma.

About author

Karuna Kaul is psycho socio clinical psychologist, who works with all age group people. Her profession motivates her to serve people who are facing behavioral issues. She has over 8 years of experience and has successfully established credibility in the areas of counselling and wellness. Assessment and behavioral analysis and training and coaching. She has been an active advocate of mental health awareness. And all her endeavors in the field are primarily focused on educating more and more people about Mental Health concerns and promoting Holistic Wellbeing. She has done master in clinical psychology PG Diploma in counselling and guidance and certified in drug addiction counselling Also she has done neuro medicine psychology from London University, Kent College of United Kingdom. With an experience of six years, she had worked with various organization which provides mental health services.