Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that affects some people after they have experienced a traumatic or terrifying event.

It is normal to feel scared during and after a terrible event. Fear causes a variety of split-second biological changes in the body to defend and prevent harm. This "fight-or-flight" response is a typical reaction meant to keep a person safe.

After a traumatic event, most people will experience difficulty coping and adapting, however, these difficulties tend to diminish with care and time. However, those who continue to experience problems may be diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Even when they are not in danger, people with PTSD may feel tense or afraid, which can interfere with their day-to-day functioning.


Symptoms and Diagnosis

A history of a traumatic incident is required in order for one to meet the diagnosis of PTSD. However, the exposure could either be firsthand or indirect. A person who learns about the violent death of a close family member or acquaintance, for example, may experience PTSD. It can also happen as a result of frequent exposure to gruesome details of the trauma, such as police personnel who are exposed to child abuse cases. Other classes of symptoms include:

✽   Intrusion

Intrusive thoughts, such as involuntary memories, disturbing nightmares, or flashbacks to the traumatic incident, is one of the symptoms of PTSD. People may have flashbacks that are so vivid that they believe they are reliving or experiencing the same painful event.

Intrusion could also involve powerful, unsettling thoughts and sensations about the traumatic incident that continue long after it has occurred. Individuals may have flashbacks or dreams about the experience, and they may feel sad, fearful, or angry, as well as detached or estranged from others.

✽   Avoidance

Avoiding people, places, activities, items, and situations that may trigger upsetting memories, to prevent reminders of the traumatic incident. People may strive to forget or avoid recalling the traumatic event. They may be adamant about not discussing what happened or how they feel about it.

✽   Alterations in Cognition and Mood, such as:

  • Inability to recall key details of the traumatic events and negative thoughts
  • Feelings leading to continued distorted beliefs about oneself or others (e.g., "I am a bad person," "Trust no one")
  • Distorted thoughts about the cause or consequences of the event lead to incorrectly blaming self or others
  • Ongoing fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame
  • Much less interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Feeling detached or estranged from others
  • Inability to experience positive emotions (a void of happiness or satisfaction)

✽   Alterations in Arousal and Reactivity, such as:

  • Being irritated and having hostile outbursts
  • Behaving recklessly or in a self-destructive manner
  • Being overly vigilant of one's surroundings in a suspicious way
  • Being easily startled
  • Having intense unpleasant reactions to seemingly harmless things like loud noises or unintentional touches.
  • Having trouble concentrating or sleeping


Treatment Methods

It is crucial to remember that not everyone who has been through a traumatic event develops PTSD, and not everyone with PTSD requires  therapy. PTSD symptoms may fade or diminish for some people over time. Others improve as a result of their support system. However, many people with PTSD benefit from professional help to recover from severe and debilitating psychological distress. It is vital to realize that trauma can cause a lot of pain and the person is not to blame for their distress. PTSD is treatable, and the sooner someone seeks treatment, the higher their chances of recovery.

✽   Cognitive Processing Therapy

Focuses on changing painful negative feelings (such as shame, guilt, and so on) and beliefs (such as "I have failed"; "the world is dangerous") that have developed as a result of the trauma. Therapists assist the individual in confronting such upsetting memories and feelings.

✽   Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Employs safe, controlled exposures to "triggers" or repeated, vivid imaginings of the trauma to help a person’s face and acquire control of anxiety and discomfort and learn to cope. Virtual reality programs, for example, have been utilized to help PTSD patients re-experience the battlefield in a safe and therapeutic way.

✽   Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy 

A psychotherapy method specialising in the processing of negative memories such that psychological stress could be relieved through directing of eye movements.

✽   Medication

Antidepressants such as SSRIs and SNRIs may be used to treat PTSD.