Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) focuses on avoiding thoughts or images of past traumatic experiences. PTSD is an exposure to a traumatic event during which an individual re experience the event through memories and nightmares. When memories occur suddenly, accompanied by strong emotion and the victim find themselves relieving the event, they are having a flashback. Victims most often avoid anything that reminds them of the trauma. They often display a characteristic restriction or numbing of emotional responsiveness, which may be disruptive to interpersonal relationships. They are sometimes unable to remember certain aspects of the event. It is possible that victims unconsciously attempt to avoid the experience of emotion itself, like people with panic disorder, because intense emotions could bring back memories of the trauma. Finally, victims typically are chronically over aroused, easily started and quick to anger.
The symptoms for PTSD are grouped into three major categories.
1. Repetitive play- trauma theme
4. Distress at exposure to similar stimuli
5. Avoidance of talk to trauma
6. Regressive behavior
8. Restricted affect
9. Sleep disturbance
10. Anger outburst
11. 12. Startle Response
PTSD is the one disorder for which we know the cause at least in terms of the precipitating event: someone personally experiences the trauma and develops a disorder, whether or not a person develops PTSD, however is a surprisingly complex issue involving biological, psychological and social factors. The intensity of exposure to assaultive violence contributes to the causes of PTSD. At lower levels of trauma, some people develop PTSD but most do not.
Treatment involves re exposing the victim to the trauma and re establishing a sense of safety to overcome the debilitating effects of PTSD. In Psychoanalytic Therapy, reliving emotional trauma to relieve emotional suffering is called Catharsis. The tricks is in arranging the re exposure so that it will be therapeutic rather than traumatic. Cognitive Therapy to correct negative assumptions about the trauma- such as blaming oneself in some way, feeling guilty, or both- is often part of treatment. Drugs can also be effective for symptoms of PTSD. Some of The drug such as SSRIs (eg Prozac and Paxil), that are effective for anxiety disorders in general have been shown to be helpful for PTSD, perhaps they relieve the severe anxiety and panic attack so prominent in this disorder.
David H. Barlow, BOSTON UNIVERSITY
V. Mark Durand, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA- ST. PETERSBERG
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