With so many war veterans returning from World hotspots such as Iraq and Afghanistan, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a term thrown around commonly, and loosely. Observing PTSD Awareness Day on June 27th, 2014, we decided to explore the condition further, and delve into the reasons, history and causes.
What is PTSD? Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is classified as an Anxiety Disorder by the DSM IV Psychology Manual. It can affect anyone, but is more common in adults than children. PTSD can manifest itself as a result of a traumatic event in which the individual experiences fear, powerlessness and stress. Although many individuals cannot recollect the actual traumatic event, and experience partial or complete amnesia, they are tormented by flashbacks, nightmares and vivid visions of the event.
Symptoms can occur months or even years after the event. Individuals suffering from PTSD can become withdrawn and depressed as a result of constantly having to relive a traumatic event. It is often found, especially in victims of war-related PTSD, that the desire to ignore, or emotionally shut out the traumatic experience or events/places related to it can lead to worsening symptoms. PTSD sufferers often turn to substance abuse to cope with the experiences, which also leads worsening symptoms.
It has been speculated that PTSD originates from our more primitive brain functions, such as our innate mammal instincts when it comes to dealing with and experiencing stressful situations. Just as we have evolved to retain memory of dangerous situations such as fire or predators in order to avoid repeating them, scientists theorize PTSD be the over-reaction of a human brain to a stressful situation in a function to remind the individual not to repeat it.
PTSD even affects patients in the medical field – those who experience Anesthesia Awareness file malpractice suits, offering symptoms of PTSD as harm done as a result of the failed anesthesia.
PTSD is tough to diagnose, and even harder to treat because most of the sufferers refuse to admit the problem, or seek counseling to resolve it. Many sufferers, especially men, consider it emasculating to admit to a psychological disorder, and consider it a sign of weakness to ask for help.
Treating PTSD relies heavily on the “more honey, less vinegar” approach. Most psychologists know that PTSD skyrocketed in Vietnam era – most likely as a result of the negative treatment and rejection publicly displayed to soldiers returning from the horrors of war. Studies have also shown that individuals who experienced childhood violence are more likely to develop PTSD as a result of traumatic events as adults than those who grew up with peaceful and loving families. As adults, love, acceptance and nurture of those who suffer from the condition is an effective, non-chemical way to battle the symptoms of PTSD. Attention from a therapist or psychologist can be extremely beneficial for those suffering from PTSD, but with the more friendly modern approach, successful long-term treatments are far more common.
It is fair to say that no one wishes to experience the most traumatic event of their life over and over again. If you know someone who may be suffering from this terrible disorder, observe PTSD Awareness Day! Reach out, give them a hand and pull them back in from the nightmare. Your gesture will go a long way towards recovery.