Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD ) is an anxiety disorder that some people develop after seeing or living through an event perceived as dangerous; from life threatening to loss of livelihood or marriage.  When in danger, it’s natural to feel afraid. This fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to prepare to defend against the danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a healthy reaction meant to protect a person from harm. But, in PTSD, this reaction is changed or damaged.  Often there are a number of high stress-related occurrences happening at one time.  The fear may be compounded by feelings of being trapped, helpless, hopeless, and wanting to help others without the ability. People who have PTSD almost always feel stressed or frightened even when they’re no longer in danger.

PTSD can cause many symptoms. These symptoms can be grouped into three categories:

1. Re-experiencing symptoms: 

Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating
Bad dreams
Frightening thoughts.
Re-experiencing symptoms may cause problems in a person’s everyday routine.  They can start from the person’s own thoughts and feelings. Words, objects, or situations that are reminders of the event can also trigger re-experiencing.

2. Avoidance symptoms: 

Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience
Feeling emotionally numb
Feeling strong guilt, depression, or worry
Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past
Having trouble remembering the dangerous event.
Things that remind a person of the traumatic event can trigger avoidance symptoms. These symptoms may cause a person to change his or her personal routine. For example, after a bad car accident, a person who usually drives may avoid driving or riding in a car.

3. Hyperarousal symptoms:

Being easily startled
Feeling tense or “on edge”
Having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts.
Hyperarousal symptoms are usually constant, instead of being triggered by things     that remind one of the traumatic event. They can make the person feel     stressed and angry. These symptoms may make it hard to do daily tasks,     such as sleeping, eating, or concentrating.

It’s natural to have some of these symptoms after a dangerous event. Sometimes people have very serious symptoms that go away after a few weeks. This is called acute stress disorder, or ASD. When the symptoms last more than a few weeks and become an ongoing problem, they might be PTSD. Some people with PTSD don’t show any symptoms for weeks or months.

The four most common treatments for PTSD include psychodynamic, cognitive-behavior therapy, pharmacotherapy, and group therapy. And, there is Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR). 

Therapy can be divided into three phases:
•    Establishing trust, safety, and "earning a right to gain access" to carefully guarded traumatic material.
•    Trauma-focused therapy, exploring traumatic material in depth, reducing intrusive recollections with avoidant/numbing symptoms.
•    Helping the patient disconnect from the trauma and reconnect with family, friends , and society.

Therapeutic methods might include Psychodynamic Therapy (talk therapy), Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (designed to manage anxiety), Pharmacotherapy (medications to reduce anxiety symptoms while allowing individual and group therapies to work), Group Therapy (mutual support from others with the same experiences), and Eye-Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) for developing more appropriate understanding of the trauma to help in managing the trauma.