When human beings experience a great trauma, the effects can be long-lasting and debilitating. Although many people learn to cope with horrible events that they have witnessed or been a part of, there are others who have much difficulty getting past the trauma. Many of them suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a recognized anxiety disorder in which individuals relive again and again the trauma that they have experienced.
History of PTSD
It was not until about 1980 that psychologists and psychiatrists came up with the name posttraumatic stress disorder to describe the particular condition of anxiety that they saw in patients who had endured a horrific event. However, that does not mean PTSD was unknown before then. For as long as human beings have recorded what happens to soldiers after battle, there have been written descriptions of symptoms that are now classified as belonging to PTSD. Ancient and medieval descriptions of soldiers in battle, for example, often describe the fighters as experiencing great fear long after wars had subsided, as well as insomnia and anxiousness among soldiers.
Symptoms of PTSD
It takes a professional to diagnose PTSD, but there are several symptoms that psychologists and psychiatrists look for. These symptoms may include:
- Reliving the traumatic event through nightmares, physical reactions to things that remind the individual of the trauma, flashbacks, etc.
- Difficulty concentrating
- Hyper-arousal-the condition of being always vigilant and on guard against danger
- Feelings of detachment from others and avoidance of people, places, and activities that remind the individual of the trauma
- Difficulty with long-term planning
To be diagnosed as having PTSD, one must have been exposed to a traumatic event, experience many of the aforementioned symptoms for at least one month, and suffer debilitating effects from the anxiety in one’s career, personal life, and other key areas of healthy functioning.
Causes of PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder can be caused by any major trauma. It is particularly common for those who have served in the military and fought in battle. Sexual assault, natural disasters, severe accidents, the sudden death of a loved one, and other similarly distressing traumas can also lead to PTSD. Moreover, PTSD is not limited to adults. Children can also suffer from it.
The Dangers of PTSD
Those who suspect that they or their loved ones are suffering from PTSD should seek help right away. People with PTSD may find themselves unable to hold a job and take care of themselves and their families. Victims of PTSD are also far more likely to attempt suicide than other members of society. Drug and alcohol addiction are also common among those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and such addiction can wreak havoc on both the PTSD sufferers and their families. In many cases, those who suffer from PTSD can be significant dangers to others, as these sufferers may find themselves unable to control their anger and aggression, leading to spousal abuse, child abuse, and other problems. Early treatment of the disorder is key for preventing such problems and for helping the sufferer to regain a state of mental wholeness.
Treatment of PTSD
Fortunately, there are many proven treatments for PTSD. Studies show that a combination of counseling and medication can help victims of PTSD live happy and healthy lives. Counseling in both group and one-on-one settings enables individuals to better understand their thoughts and anxiety, and to find ways to cope with the memories of trauma. PTSD is also treated with many of the same drugs that are used to address clinical depression. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can help the brain maintain the proper level of serotonin, which has the effect of making people feel less anxious and sad. There are numerous success stories when it comes to PTSD treatment. You or your loved ones who suffer from PTSD can add your success story as well if you get the proper treatment.
For More Information
PTSD is widely recognized as a treatable psychological disorder, so there is a lot of information available today on the condition and its treatment. For more information on PTSD and its causes, symptoms, and treatment, please consult the following:
- Accommodating Employees with PTSD
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: PTSD
- American Psychological Association: PTSD
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America: PTSD
- Brainline: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A History and a Critique
- Five Steps Veterans Can Take to Support PTSD Treatment
- Helpguide on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Kids Health: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
- The Lasting Effects of PTSD
- Mayo Clinic: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Military Veterans: PTSD Symptoms and Treatment
- National Center for PTSD
- National Institute of Mental Health: PTSD
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Children
- PTSD Anonymous
- Symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
- Trauma Articles on PTSD