Please Note: This FAQ is not intended to provide advice
on personal medical matters, nor is it intended to be a substitute for
medical advice or training. Do not use this information to diagnose or
treat a mental health problem without consulting a qualified health or
mental health care provider.
is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD?
A. Not long
ago, post traumatic
stress disorder, PTSD, was known as "shell shock" or "battle
fatigue." The older terms came into popular use during World War
II. Back then, PTSD was thought
to affect only combat veterans. Now, scientist know that, in fact,
survivors of atrocities such as the Holocaust, torture, rape, domestic
violence, child abuse, war, natural disasters, catastrophic illnesses,
and accidents, are susceptible to post traumatic
stress disorder, PTSD.
the word "Post"
is used as a prefix meaning behind or after. The word "Traumatic
or Trauma" refers to a catastrophic
or horrific event. It usual involves actual injury or threatened
death. The term "disorder"
has to do with a pathological condition of the mind or body.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is a complex
health condition that can develop in response to a traumatic experience
– a life-threatening or extremely distressing situation that causes a person
to feel intense fear, horror or a sense of helplessness. PTSD can cause
severe problems at home or at work. Anyone can develop PTSD – men, women,
children, young and old alike. Fortunately, PTSD is treatable.
It was once thought that PTSD
was limited to direct victims of trauma.
It is now known that even witnesses of traumatic
suffer PTSD. Such trauma can
result in a defining psychological experience that evokes feelings of panic,
grief and helplessness. Trauma of great magnitude
shatters a person's basic assumption about the world and personal
safety, leaving the person feeling alienated and distrustful, or else overly
PTSD Features. It should be noted that a trauma
is qualitatively different from the "stressors" associated with everyday
"life events." The primary difference between a trauma
more or less normal "life events" is one of degree or magnitude.
For example, Traumas
include: physical injury or wound caused by external force or violence,
earthquakes, massive flooding, wars and extreme brutality.
While "stresses" are limited to common "life events" such as divorce,
failure, illness, job changes, dislocation, unexpected wealth or
fortune and so on.
Who gets PTSD.
Not everyone who survives a traumatic event
succome to PTSD.
Differences in reactions seem to depend on individual ability to
cope with catastrophic stress. Consequently, different people handle
it differently. Some seem to shake it off with little or no apparent
effects; while others develop the full-blown syndrome with may symptoms.
Flashbacks and nightmares, avoidance behaviors
and emotional numbing characterize the syndrome. In fact, scientists now
believe that PTSD is relatively common.
An estimated 3 to 10 percent of American's are thought to suffer from PTSD.
Delayed on-set of PTSD.
While most victims exhibit signs of PTSD
immediately following a disaster; others may not become symptomatic for
many months or even years after a disaster. In any event,
PTSD can become a chronic psychiatric disorder that persists for decades
and in some cases; last a lifetime.
Causes of PTSD.
caused by an experience of loss and is usually linked to an extraordinary
situation. A diagnosis of
PTSD is usually
limited to those who have actually lived through a traumatic experience.
Other diagnostic criterion for PTSD,
include 1) intrusive memories or vivid
flashbacks of the experience, 2) avoidance
behaviors, 3) hyperarousal symptoms,
and 4) persistence of these symptoms
for at least one month.
Intrusive symptoms might include daytime
fantasies, traumatic nightmares, and even vivid breaks with reality. When
such symptoms of "re-experiencing" occur, people naturally try to avoid
or suppress them. In extreme cases, the individual refuse to leave
the house out of fear of coming across reminders of the trauma.
Some victims avoid all situations that
might remind them of the trauma. And, sometimes they even manage
to avoid or blunt their emotions as well. Many times such blunting
interferes with or prevents close ties with family and friends.
victims suffer from insomnia and irritability, as well as from hypervigilance.
Such symptoms are thought to result from a condition known as hyperarousal.
Victims often show an exaggerated startle reaction, which is due to actual
neurobiological changes within the nervous system.
victims may also have trouble concentrating or remembering current information.
And, because of their chronic hyperarousal, do poorly at school, work,
and in relationships. People with PTSD
often try to resolve conflicts by withdrawing emotionally, or even by becoming
violent. And, because theycan't tolerate
strong emotions they become adept at ignoring their feelings. This emotional
numbing makes it difficult for them to participate meaningfully in relationships.
What To Do. Patients
with PTSD generally suffer a trio of
general symptoms: reliving of the traumatic event in the form of flashbacks
or nightmares; emotional numbing; and heightened states of arousal, like
jumpiness and irritability. Most people experience some form of post-trauma
stress for at least a month or two after an event. But if those acute problems
become chronic, a person should seek treatment.
For more information on
PTSD, see links below.
Therapy can help restore
confidence and belief in the world as a "safe" place. However, to
be effective , it should be started soon after the trauma.
A PTSD check up might be in order
when symptoms last longer than a month following a severe trauma.
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