Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological illness that is triggered by terrifying events, such as life threatening, frightening or extreme overwhelming experiences. These events may be associated with human or natural-caused disasters, personal assaults, military combat, and accidents among others.
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Some other factors such as horror events and helpless situations among other can result to PTSD in a person who witness or experience them. PTSD keep on re-experiencing the traumatic occurrences and try to avoid contact with people, places, or other things that contributed to the disorder or which remind him of the events.
In addition, a person in this condition is delicate or sensitive to the happening of the normal world. Despite the fact this condition is serious and has ever existed, human being has tolerated trauma and as a result this condition has made it hard to identify a person suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and has therefore been termed as a formal diagnosis for a long time.
This condition has been nicknamed with many terms, for instance “soldier’s heart” condition by early American civil war veterans, “combat fatigue” in World War I, “gross stress reaction” in World War II, “post-Vietnam syndrome” by early Vietnam troops, “shell shock” and “battle fatigue.” (Frienman 2003).
Statistical facts on PTSD
A severe post traumatic stress disorder normally results from an extended exposure to events causing trauma and it is associated with long-term problems with damaged social and emotional functions. According to survey done by Nutt, Davidson and Zohr (2000), 7% – 8% of the US citizen will likely experience PTSD throughout their life with other cases of rape and combat veteran’s victims comprising of 10% – 30%.
The survey also shows that in a nation that comprises more than one ethnic group such as America, some ethnic groups are more affected as compared to others. This is caused by different ways in which these groups practice ways of socializing, perception of inferiority by some ethnic groups, individuals self blaming as a result of perceiving themselves as minorities and ways of expressing stress which differs between these groups.
In addition, since the minority groups are the most sufferance of conditions such as low self esteem, they are more likely to join sub-cultural groups such as army, at early age, something that expose them to PTSD. More importantly, women are considered to be more sensitive to PTSD as much as twice in comparison with men. In regard to the children and teens, research has shown that about 42% have undergone and endured at least one traumatic event with girl comprising the highest percent.
Causes of PTSD
Any trauma related to psychological or emotional well being of an individual, life threatening event or extreme fear can result to PTSD. According to Frienman (2003),
“These occurrences entail witnessing or experiencing physical injury, stern accident, exposure to war combat or a natural disaster, a medical diagnosis which is life threatening, victimization in kidnapping or sexual harassment such as rape, torture, terrorist attack experience, being exposed to cases of robbery, emotional abuse, and involvement in civil conflict.”
In addition, other events which might not be categorized as traumatic such as unemployment, and divorce and others could also make people develop PTSD in reaction with them (Schiraldi 2004).
Signs and symptoms of PTSD
There are three symptoms of PTSD: First, repeated or continuous trauma experience such as; flashbacks caused by recalling of the traumatic events, troubled memories, progressive nightmares about the trauma and dissociated trauma relieving;
Second, avoidance of people, places and experiences associated with the trauma or which bring back memories of trauma to an extent of developing a phobia on them; and thirdly, according to Schiraldi (2004), “chronic physical signs of hyperarousal, which include difficulty in recalling things or blackout, anger, insomnia, increased tendency and reaction to being started, poor concentration, irritability, hypervigilance to heat , and trouble concentrating.”
Assessment of PTSD
Although most of PTSD victims complain about of different symptoms with those of PTSD making it sometime hard to assess the disorder, PTSD is assessed through various ways. Mostly, the ‘patients’ complains are on depression, somatization (body symptoms), and drug addiction.
It is argued that individuals suffering from PTSD have cases of attempting to committee suicide. In addition according to Flannery (2004), “to these symptoms, the diagnosis of PTSD is often accompanied with habits of eating disorders, anxiety disorder such as social anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, generalized panic disorder, and panic disorder.”
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In examining PTSD in a teenager, interviewing both the teenager and his or her guardian separately is very important as despite that parent may be having certain perspective, the child may be undergoing natural feelings that the parent is not aware of.
Sometimes children may present different symptoms of PTSD from adults which make it difficult in diagnosing them. For example, their symptoms may comprise of problems in focusing, sitting still or controlling their impulses, which is not common on adults, and these symptoms can be mistaken with other body disorder (Nutt et al 2000).
What are the Effects of PTSD
Traumatized person is exposed to significant consequences raging from milled one to serious ones According to several psychologists’ researches; people who have undergone severe stress have smaller hippocampus (a brain part that enhances memory) as compared to people not exposed to traumatic events.
According to Schiraldi (2004), “since the hippocampus is the key brain part that plays the major role of recalling the happening of events, it makes it important in understanding the trauma effects in general and specifically, the impact of PTSD.”
In addition, persons who have been exposed to traumatic events, regardless whether the condition develops to PTSD or not, they are exposed to risks of unhealthy consumption of drugs such as alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana. If PTSD is ignored and fails to be treated, it can lead to disturbing consequences which widely affects not only the PTSD victim but also the relationships of the victim with his family and the society in general (Kinchin 2004).
These effects are more serious to women who suffer from sexual harassment in their early childhood, effects which can be inherited by their children. For example, a mother with this disorder in her pregnancy period will likely give birth to a child who will suffer from PTSD due to chemical imbalances.
This disorder also results to other illnesses such as stomach ulcers and reproductive problems among others. According to Goulston (2007), “Individuals suffering from PTSD struggle emotionally to acquire good mental health treatment outcome similar to any other person with any kind of emotional problem.” PTSD also affects the learning abilities and social aspects of children and teens.
In addition PTSD affects, at a great extent, children’s ability to learn. PTSD can also contribute to economic problems. For example, in 2005, a number of veterans exceeding 200,000 received compensation of disability of this illness which amounted to $ 4.3 billion (Kinchin 2004).
Protective factors and risk factors for PTSD
According to Kinchin, (2004), “there are issues which contribute to high risk of people in developing PTSD which include: higher severity of experienced trauma; a prolonged duration of trauma event; lack of enough social support from family and friends; many endured traumatic events; and having an emotional condition before the traumatic event.” Other factors that contribute to PTSD include conditions of handicapped on individuals and home violence.
On the other hand, preventive factors may include offering training useful for improving traumatic related logistical issues and physical safety. This is the reason why people in working professional fields with prior knowledge of happenings are less affected by post-traumatic stress disorders when they encounter a disastrous event as compared to those with no such professional training.
On the other hand, use of medicine is another way of preventing PTSD. These medicines include those that reduce extent of depression and heart beat among others. However, these medicines have to be administered into an individual immediately on the traumatic attack (Goulston 2007).
How PTSD is treated
In treating PTSD, two measures can be employed which are medical and psychological measures. In psychotherapy, the treatment entails educating the sufferer concerning his or her condition, assuring the patient of other cases by other people, providing guidance on ways of managing the accompanied symptoms, as well as helping the sufferer to view his condition from a positive perspective.
According to Nutt et al (2000), “in educating the PTSD sufferers, they are explained what PTSD is, number of others suffering the illness, its actual cause which is not weakness but extraordinary stress, its treatment and expectations in treatment.” This education is helpful in dispelling any misleading ideas conceived by these individuals.
On the other hand, medicines can be used to treat this illness. Some of the medication used include; serotonergic antidepressants, propranolol, clonidine and paroxetine. Many of these medicines help the sufferer absorb and retain information as well as assist in decreasing fear, depression, anxiety and panic (Flannery 2004).
How to Cope with PTSD
One way of copping with this condition is through assisting the patient to understand it, encouraging him to speak his feelings out and directly. He can choose to do this by talking to his friends, family members of health professionals. In addition, it is considered healthy joining a support group. More importantly, an individual should apply relaxation techniques effective for managing stress, such as positive imagery and breathing exercises.
Other tips include, healthy eating, adhering to professional recommendations on treatment, volunteering, increasing lifestyle practices which are positive, and minimizing lifestyle practices which are negative such as substance abuse, excessive working, and negative thoughts among others (Frienman 2003).
In addition, other people mostly “significant others” are key players in helping a PTSD sufferer in coping with this condition. Offering social support to the individual helps him/her to perceive himself in a positive way by appreciating the support and identifying him/herself with another person or party. The significant others which mostly comprise of family members such as parents in case of children and partner in married couples will determine whether the victim will be able to cope with the situation or not.
Any signs of discrimination from them to the victim such as stigmatization and avoidance will accelerate the intensive of the disorder. On the other hand, support through listening and encouraging the sufferer to speak out, involving him in social activities and sticking near him will not only provide psychological support but also but also a good ground for adjustment.
Flannery, R. (2004). Posttraumatic stress disorder: The Victim’s Guide to Healing and Recovery. Ellicott City: Chevron Pub Corp.
Frienman, M. J. (2003). Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: The latest assessment and treatment strategies. Alexandria: Compact Clinicals.
Goulston, M. (2007). Post-Traumatic Disorders for Dummies. Alexandria: For Dummies.
Kinchin, A. (2004). Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: The Invisible Injury. Baltimore: Success Unlimited.
Nutt, D. J., Davidson, J. R & Zohr, J. (2000). Post-traumatic stress disorder: diagnosis, management and treatment. Washington, DC: Informal Health Care.
Schiraldi, G. R. (2004) The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder source book. Bethesda: McGraw Hill Professional.