Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Throughout the duration of this course we have touched on many different topics and disorders that all have been truly unique and very interesting. However, the chapter I found the most interesting was Anxiety Disorders and particularly Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Therefore, I will present a brief history of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder such as, its origin and how this disorder has affected individuals over generations. I will be touching on all aspects of this disorder ranging from how this disorder can be acquired in many different ways, forms to its multiple effects on individuals, and how this affects their behaviors and life style. I will also discuss treatments and some specific examples of PTSD.

Forever, humans have been put under stress and in stressful situations, which have the ability to aggravate or make one so distressed, they will actually demonstrate mental and physical symptoms from this encounter with stress. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder works under similar principles, PTSD can be defined as a severe psychological reaction, lasting one month and involving intense feeling of fear, helplessness, or horror, to intensely traumatic events, events involving actual or threatened death or serious injury to oneself or others (Alloy, Riskino, & Manos, 2005, p.157). In other words PTSD is the, “hypermnesis linked to the trauma which produces various emotional disturbances that result in a state of increased hypersensitivity towards environmental stimuli “ (Tapia, Clarys, Isingrini & El-Hage, 2007).Insinuating after this intense traumatic experience or episode one is going to experience an anxiety to stimuli that reminds the victim of this initial experience. PTSD can also be diagnosed in two different forms in the DSM-IV-TR, which are Acute and Chronic PTSD. The different forms are recognized by the severity of an individual’s disorder; Acute lasting just a month or so then gradually fading away. Then there is the Chronic form that is much more server and last for years, even decades, and in some cases a lifetime (Alloy et al., 2005, p.157).

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has not always been defined or distinguished by DSM as it was portrayed above. Not until the third edition of the DSM published in 1980 was PTSD placed as a subcategory of anxiety disorders, then again it was republished with the fourth edition in 1994 defining it as a new stress response category (Beall, 1997). The true origin or time when the term PTSD was defined was in 1908s yet for many years before this there have been terms which were used to describe the symptoms of this disorder which was commonly associated with war fatigue. These are terms such as “shell shocked”, “combat fatigue” and “combat neurosis”, were terms, which mainly arose during World War I (WW1) to describe some soldier’s depression, anxiety, nightmares and panic attacks after returning from battle. This followed through WWII where the same symptoms were observed. A study on 1,089 Dutch veterans 50 years after the WWII showed that 50% of these people were still suffering from PTSD in some way and only 4% showed no symptoms at all. The next major war, the Vietnam War, saw much of the same but on a larger scale due to many factors. (Alloy et al., 2005, p.158). At one time war fatigue was one of the only causes of PTSD; however, today we now know that it is one of the major causes and there are many other stressors, situations, and events which can cause one to endure the same symptoms of PTSD; both acute and chronic.

For many generations Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was mainly related to war fatigue. Yet it is now known that virtually any trauma that can be considered life threatening or that severe, compromises the emotional well-being of an individual, or causes intense fear is a cause of PTSD. In other terms PTSD can derive from any stress, fear, situation or event, which can cause injury, death, emotional damage or even intense fear. So this can happen in many different situations; for example, a plane crash, a natural disaster (tornados, earthquakes, etc.), an assault, a car crash or even rape. It all depends what each individual feels will compromise their well being to what situations can actually be a trigger for the start of PTSD. A perfect example of this was after two large earthquakes in Iceland 100 children between the ages of 10-15 were chosen from the hardest hit areas to be examined and questioned for symptoms of PTSD. The results were quite interesting where 59% an extreme fear of injury during the quake 49% fear of death and 30% felt completely helpless. This Natural disaster triggered the symptoms of PTSD among these children and left an imprinting fear or anxiety of earthquakes with them (Bodvarsdottir, Elkit & Gudmundsdottir, 2007).

The effects and symptoms of PTSD can also be portrayed through each individual in a variety of ways, shapes and forms. According to the “National Institute of Mental Health” there are three main categories which symptoms can be grouped under. The first category is re-experiencing symptoms, which can be anything from flashbacks (reliving the experience), nightmares, and frightening or even suicidal thoughts. These types of symptoms can be triggered from anything that reminds the victim of the traumatic experience. Types of triggers could be a place, thought, word, object or almost anything that reminds the individual of the traumatic event. The second category is avoidance symptoms, which include avoiding certain places, objects, and people. The victim might feel socially numb and have strong guilt and depression. One may have loss of interest in once enjoyable activities and they may have trouble remembering the actual traumatic even which triggered the PTSD. The last category is hyperarousal symptoms such as feeling on edge, anxious, being easily startled, having sudden outburst, and having difficulty sleeping (NIMH, 2009). All of these symptoms interfere with the victim’s ability to function normally or to the extent they did before the triggering event. This may be anything from ones sleeping pattern being disoriented, insomnia, lack of energy or motivation and even fear or loss of social activity. In many cases the individual may lose the ability to function properly or at all in social situation, which can lead to a social phobia. A particularly good example of this is when Vietnam Veterans returned form war. Instead of being greeted with praise and welcomed they were spat on and called baby killers due to the political view at that current time. Along with most likely having some form of PTSD these men were also repressed by society forcing down upon them, “social stigmatization and isolation” (Nietlisbach & Maercker, 2009). In many cases this caused victims to become violent and distant from love ones, this is a possibility for any case of PTSD not just war veterans. However there are treatments that can be used to counter act PTSD.
Treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder include a variety of techniques that are designed to help the victim through a recovery process. These techniques include forms of psychotherapy where the victims and encouraged to form relationships with family or friends. The individual should begin relationship building as well as emotional and cognitive connections with the trauma. The victim should also recognize the divergence between pre and post trauma values, meaning how their values have changed. Learning to modify one’s since of self establishes a meaning for the trauma being experienced. Also, it is important to reestablish appropriate self-management and social skills so they will be able to live a normal life (Marshall & Dobson, 1996). These types of therapies along with constant reestablishment into society and their family along with reassuring yourself confidence is very key in through PTSD. There are medications, which are also used such as paroxetine and sertraline, which are both anti-depressants. These are used to treat depression, fear, worry, anger and feeling numb inside. In many cases this is paired with psychotherapy and the various techniques discussed above to help the victim through the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (NIHM, 2006).

In conclusion Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a very concerning disorder, which is triggered by a traumatic event that induces the fear of death, injury or emotional damage. This has been seen through the ages yet became very prevalent in the first and second World Wars were men came home with bouts of battle fatigue or being “shell socked.” This was also seen all throughout Vietnam and on a larger scale due to the political views during that era. PTSD was then defined in the DSM-III in 1980 as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. We now know, that PTSD can be caused not only from war but almost any traumatic event in an individual life, which triggers the immense fear of death, injury or emotional damage. This affects individuals in a variety of ways through symptoms such as re-experiencing the traumatic event, avoidance and hyperarousal. In some case impairing ones ability to function normally in social situations. However, there are treatments that are designed to target the specific symptoms and affects to rebuild the victim’s confidence, relationships, and life style to what it was to previously to the traumatic event.

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