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What is post-traumatic stress disorder?You Should Know About it

Human beings are all about emotions, and sometimes a traumatic event can make them lose their sense of self. Some events in a person’s life can be so traumatic that they can completely change their behaviour and personality. This can even lead to mental illnesses.

What is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, series of events or set of circumstances. An individual may experience this as emotionally or physically harmful or life-threatening and may affect mental, physical, social, and/or spiritual well-being. Examples include natural disasters, serious accidents, terrorist acts, war/combat, rape/sexual assault, historical trauma, intimate partner violence and bullying,

PTSD has been known by many names in the past, such as “shell shock” during the years of World War I and “combat fatigue” after World War II, but PTSD does not just happen to combat veterans. PTSD can occur in all people, of any ethnicity, nationality or culture, and at any age. PTSD affects approximately 3.5 percent of U.S. adults every year.

The lifetime prevalence of PTSD in adolescents ages 13 -18 is 8%. An estimate one in 11 people will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime. Women are twice as likely as men to have PTSD. Three ethnic groups – U.S. Latinos, African Americans, and Native Americans/Alaska Natives – are disproportionately affected and have higher rates of PTSD than non-Latino whites.

What is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • Intrusion: Intrusive thoughts such as repeated, involuntary memories; distressing dreams; or flashbacks of the traumatic event. Flashbacks may be so vivid that people feel they are reliving the traumatic experience or seeing it before their eyes.
  • Avoidance: Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event may include avoiding people, places, activities, objects and situations that may trigger distressing memories. People may try to avoid remembering or thinking about the traumatic event. They may resist talking about what happened or how they feel about it.
  • Alterations in cognition and mood: Inability to remember important aspects of the traumatic event, negative thoughts and feelings leading to ongoing and distorted beliefs about oneself or others (e.g., “I am bad,” “No one can be trusted”); distorted thoughts about the cause or consequences of the event leading to wrongly blaming self or other; ongoing fear, horror, anger, guilt or shame; much less interest in activities previously enjoyed; feeling detached or estranged from others; or being unable to experience positive emotions (a void of happiness or satisfaction).
  • Alterations in arousal and reactivity: Arousal and reactive symptoms may include being irritable and having angry outbursts; behaving recklessly or in a self-destructive way; being overly watchful of one’s surroundings in a suspecting way; being easily startled; or having problems concentrating or sleeping.

This is the kind where you tend to feel the trauma over and over again. In general, the person gets flashbacks and a sensation that the event is happening again. There are frequent nightmares about the event, and there is intense mental or physical distress when you think about the event.

When it comes to avoidance, the person wants to forget about the trauma as much as possible. The person refuses to talk even minutely about the event that caused the trauma. They try to avoid every situation, place, or anything related to the trauma.

Arousal and reactivity
This is what happens to a person who is going through PTSD. This can include several physical and mental symptoms. The person can have trouble concentrating. They tend to get startled quite easily and have an exaggerated response when startled. There is also a constant feeling of being on edge. The person can also be irritated by the bouts of anger.

What are the different kinds of PTSD?

As per, there are different kinds of PTSD as well. After the diagnosis, one can be classified as having mild, moderate, or severe PTSD symptoms. But here are the different kinds:

Delayed-onset PTSD
If a person’s PTSD occurs six months after the incident, then this might be described as “delayed PTSD” or “delayed-onset PTSD.”

Complex PTSD
If the trauma occurred when you were a child or lasted for a long time, then it can be given the diagnosis of “complex PTSD.” Here you experience normal PTSD symptoms along with additional symptoms that include difficulty controlling your emotions, feeling very angry or distrustful towards the world, avoiding friendships and relationships because you find them very difficult, or even having suicidal thoughts.

Birth Trauma
Even after a difficult case of childbirth, PTSD can occur. This is called birth trauma. This is commonly referred to as postnatal depression and other perinatal mental health issues.

What is the treatment for PTSD?

As per the National Institute of Mental Health, the treatment for PTSD typically includes psychotherapy and counselling, medication, or a combination of all three. There are different options when it comes to psychotherapy.

One way of going about it is when the medical professional uses cognitive processing therapy (CPT). This is when an individual learns how to think about things in a different way than what they have been feeling. Mental imagery of the traumatic event may help them work through their trauma to gain control over their fear and distress.

The other way is when the medical professional uses prolonged exposure therapy. The medical professional here teaches people with PTSD how to approach their thoughts and feelings about a traumatic event. They are made to discuss the event, and gradually confronting the cause of their fear in a safe and controlled environment may help the person feel more in control.