What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? And what to do about it
The definition of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder, more precisely an anxiety disorder brought about by a significant traumatic event occurring in the life of the person.
PTSD is a delayed or protracted response to a stressful event or situation (which could have taken place over a brief period of time or be of a much longer duration) of an exceptionally threatening or catastrophic nature, which is likely to cause significant, pervasive distress in almost anyone.
A diagnosis of PTSD will be looking at the coexistence of the following three symptom clusters persisting for at least 1 month following the traumatic event or may continue beyond the month when the trauma involves repeated exposure to the traumatic event(s):
Causes of PTSD
The causes of PTSD are wide and varied, and include, but not limited the following examples:
•War – PTSD is often associated with veterans returning from war torn campaigns
•Serious accident, especially road traffic ones and especially when it threatens the life or integrity of the person(s) around the PTSD sufferer.
•Abuse such as sexual, physical or of an emotional nature which has continued over months or years.
Symptoms of PTSD
PTSD symptoms are characterised by:
1. Persistent re-experiencing or re-living the stressor event/s with intrusive ‘flashbacks’, vivid memories or recurring dreams, or in experiencing distress whenever exposed to circumstances resembling or associated with the stressor.
2. Avoidance – actual or preferred or circumstances resembling or associated with the stressor which were not present before exposure to the trauma.
3. Hyperarousal characterised by long hypervigilance, being in a state of constant ‘on guard’ and exaggerated ‘startle’ response together with difficultly in concentrating.
In addition, there could be an inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma; feelings of detachment or estrangement from others; a marked, diminished interest and/or participation in significant activities; restricted range of feelings/emotions and sense of foreshortened future; difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep; outbursts of irritability or anger and restricted feeling of pleasure and significant impairment in social and/or working areas of life together with other important areas of functioning.
Complex PTSD is defined for adults as repeated acts of trauma as opposed to one off incidents and may be happening over a long period of time, ie years of abuse and can cause change of personality traits and can also lead onto alcoholism or substance misuse or to repeated acts of deliberate self harm as a coping mechanism and a way of dealing with these long term symptoms.
Treatment for PTSD in adults in the UK is psychotherapy and medication.
NICE Guidelines PTSD
The above therapies are endorsed by National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) UK guidance are Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) and duration of treatment varies depending upon the complexities of the presenting trauma and will be addressed at the assessment stage.
Post Traumatic Growth
In summary, there is still no definitive answer as to why some people suffer with PTSD and others do not, although there are common held views that some people with certain personality traits such as compulsive or those of a particularly fragile and weak nature are considered as predisposing factors in the same way as those with a past history of neurotic disorders however, these are neither necessary nor sufficient to explain the occurrence of the PTSD.
Are you struggling with PTSD?
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