When people are exposed to the threat of death or to the actual situation they may develop stress disorders. Being exposed to the death of our loved ones or any other traumatic events leads to the development of stress symptoms and in severe cases led to the development of disorder like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. If individual experience PTSD diagnosis then they face problems such as the intrusion of distressing reminders of the events, dissociative symptoms such as feeling numb or detached from others, avoidance of situations that might serve as reminders o the event and hyperarousal such as sleep disturbances or irritability. These symptoms can last for months after the event. It also includes negative changes in cognition including memory loss, excessive self-blaming, distance from others and inability to experience positive emotions.
In the 1980s, when the diagnosis of PTSD was added in DSM the media drew attention to the psychological aftereffects of combat experienced by Vietnam War veterans. It was the most publicized but not the only one. Reports of psychological dysfunction following exposure to combat emerged after the Civil War and received increased attention with conditions called shell shock, traumatic neurosis, combat stress and combat fatigue. Survivors also were reported to suffer long term psychological effects including the “survivor syndrome” of chronic depression, anxiety and difficulties in interpersonal relationships. The lifetime prevalence of PTSD is 6.8 per cent with a yearly prevalence of 3.5 per cent. The symptoms of PTSD and related disorder such as depression can persist for many years. Women are more likely to develop it than men.
There are four types of symptoms but they are different for everyone. The types are as follows:-
- Avoidance Symptoms– It happens when an individual tries to avoid the situation or people that trigger the traumatic event. They do not discuss the event with anyone. It leads to a loss of interest in activities and getting emotionally detached. They also try to stay from places and objects that remind them of the event. Example, if you lost someone in a plane crash you might stop travelling by plane.
- Re-experiencing symptoms are like flashbacks which make the person feel like they are going through the event again. It involves Nightmares, Frightening Thoughts, Fearful thoughts or intense mental or physical reactions.
- Arousal and Reactivity symptoms– It includes problems such as irritability, difficulty in sleeping, frustration and anger outbursts, feeling tense or anxious. Individual also face jumpiness or they get startled by the thought of the event, difficulty in concentration and self- destructive behaviours such as rash driving.
- Cognition and mood symptoms– It includes negative changes in feelings and beliefs. Other problems are memory loss, feeling hopeless for future and difficulty in maintaining interpersonal relationships. Constant feeling of guilt and blame. They feel like leaving alone.
The symptoms for children are different from adults. Children face problems such as-
- Separation Anxiety can lead to Separation Anxiety Disorder
- Loss of skills such as toilet training
- Sleep problems
- Phobias and anxieties
- Narrating out trauma trough help of plays, stories or drawings
- Pains with no actual cause
Physical symptoms such as sweating, headache, dizziness, stomach ache, weak immune system are also faced by people.
A traumatic experience is an external event but researches propose that traumatic events may lead to changes in the brain that make it hypersensitive to possible danger in the future. Individuals with PTSD experience alterations in the hippocampus, the structure responsible for memory. As a result, a person is unable to distinguish between harmful situation from the ones in which real trauma occurred. Levels of hormones responsible for ‘flight or fight’ situation are different than a person not having PTSD. Other causes are as follows:-
- Family History of depression and PTSD
- Lack of coping skills
- A lot of stress in daily life
- Sexual Abuse
- History of anxiety or other mental illness and substance abuse
- Careers such as police or military that lead to traumatic events
- Lack of support
PTSD can increase chances for disorders such as depression, anxiety, eating disorder, substance abuse and suicide. Diagnosis should be done under medical professionals. To be diagnosed with PTSD a person should meet the criteria listed under DSM by the American Psychological Association. They should have at least one re-experiencing, avoidance symptom and two arousal and cognition and mood symptoms.
The treatment include:
- Medication- SSRI antidepressants are the only FDA approved medications for people with PTSD. The response rate of patients to this medication is rarely more than 60 percent and less than 20 to 30 percent achieve full remission of their symptoms. Researchers do not support the use of benzodiazepines in the treatment of PTSD. Antipsychotic medication risperidone might benefit individuals.
- Psychological Perspective- People with PTSD have a high level of neuroticism, negativity etc. so their coping and personality styles are very important. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is considered one of the most effective therapy. It combines some type of exposure with relaxation and cognitive restructuring. Other alternative methods include interpersonal therapy, mantra repetition and acceptance and commitment therapy.
In Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) the clinicians ask the client to think about a traumatic event while focusing rapid movement of the clinician’s finger for 10 to 12 eye movements. Though being used to an increasing degree, EMDR lacks the effectiveness associated with some type of exposure therapy.
Positive Psychology proposes that people can grow through the experience of trauma. With this approach, trauma potentially allows clients to find the positive interpretation of their experiences.
Things happen in life which can change everything but we should not lead that happen. We should always move on in life because it is an important thing. Learning about your own symptoms is very important. There is always someone who can help you so seek help from people. Accepting and healing does not mean forge eying but it helps to build confidence that we come up with bad memories.