Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can happen after an individual has been through a traumatic event. A traumatic event is something terrible or terrifying that one sees or experiences. Usually, during this type of incident or experience, the patients think that your life or others’ lives are in danger. They may feel scared or helpless or feel that they have no control over what is happening.
Anyone who has experienced a life-threatening event can go on to develop PTSD. These events can include:
- Combat situations
- Terrorist attacks or incidents
- Serious accidents, such as a car wreck
- Sexual or physical assault
- Child sexual or physical abuse such as bullying
- Natural disasters, like tornadoes, fires, floods, hurricanes, or earthquakes.
After the event, the patients may feel angry, scared or confused, or. If one has difficulty dealing with these feelings, if they won’t go away or even deteriorate, they may have PTSD.
These symptoms may have a disruptive impact on the patient’s life, have an impact on those around them and make it hard to continue with their daily activities.
Symptoms Of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Symptoms and indications of post-traumatic stress disorder usually begin within three months of a traumatic event. In a small minority of situations, PTSD symptoms have been known not to occur until years after the event.
Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms are generally categorised into three major types:-
- Intrusive memories
- Avoidance and numbing,
- Increased anxiety or emotional arousal commonly known as hyperarousal).
Symptoms of Intrusive Memories include one getting flashbacks of the traumatic event for very short periods of time (minutes) to even large stretches of time (days). The patient may also have dreams related to the traumatic event frequently.
Symptoms of avoidance and emotional numbing can include the patient avoiding to talk or even think about the traumatic event or its details. Patients feel emotionally numb and tend to avoid the activities they previously enjoyed. The victims of PTSD also suffer with hopelessness regarding their future. In many cases, patients suffer with memory problems and have trouble concentrating on things. Some sufferers of PTSD find it difficult to maintain close relationships which further contributes to the stress.
Symptoms of anxiety and heightened emotional arousal can be irritability or getting angry easily, people suffering from anxiety and heightened emotional arousal may also feel guilty and shame which can be overwhelming. People suffering from this disorder can also be self destructing by doing activities like drinking excessively. Patients also have trouble in getting asleep at night and many depend on sleeping pills. They can also be easily frightened or startled by common things. Sometimes, patients may also hear or see things which are not actually present.
Moreover, the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which are mentioned above can come and go any time. One can suffer from the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when they are in stress or in some kind of experience which reminds them of the traumatic event which caused the PTSD. Many a times, simple things can trigger memories in people and they can get stressed. For example, you may hear the backfire of a vehicle and think about the combat experiences you have gone through and you may read about a rape in the newspaper and may have to relive the experience of your own assault.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Treatment
Post traumatic stress disorder has been found to be treated by means of psychotherapy or medications.
Research has indicated the importance of psychotherapy in the treatment of Post traumatic stress disorder. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a suggested form of psychotherapy by American Psychiatric Association for panic disorder in particular. CBT reveals the significance of both the behavioral and the thought processes to understand and control anxiety or panic attacks. The treatment is especially meant for the insufficient, obstructive, damaging behaviors and unreasonable thought processes which enable the symptoms to continue.
Here the focus of the treatment is to enable the clients better understand their unconscious conflicts within and their fantasies. This helps the patients to recognize the defense mechanisms which take part in continuing the symptoms.Psychotherapy is normally done by a social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist, or an experienced counselor.
The drugs may be prescribed either by a physician or a psychiatrist. The duration for the drug treatment may vary among individuals. For some people, it becomes essential to continue the medication for their entire life, whereas for some it may not be needed.
The drugs generally used for the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants. The anti-anxiety drugs are mostly benzodiazepines. They include Ativan, Klonopin or Xanax. Since the patients are likely to get addicted to these drugs, they are prescribed sparingly or in very low amounts.
Antidepressants are prescribed though there is no clinical depression, since antidepressants prevent panic attacks. Antidepressants perform their action by changing the levels of the neurotransmitters (brain chemicals). Those neurotransmitters which are affected are:-
- Serotonin modulates mood, anxiety, sleep, sexuality and appetite.
- Dopamine manipulates body movements and is believed since a long time to have involved in motivating, rewarding, reinforcing, and other addictive behaviors. There are many psychosis theories suggesting the role of dopamine in psychotic symptoms.
- Norepinephrine monitors alertness and sleep and is also supposed to be linked to fight and flight stress response of the body.
The antidepressants used in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms are:-
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) : Paxil, Zoloft and Prozac – increase the serotonin levels of brain to perform its action.
- Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) : Effexor and Cymbalta – alter the levels of both norepinephrine and serotonin.
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) : Anafranil and Elavil – alter norepinephrine and serotonin to a larger extent and dopamine to a smaller extent.
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) : Nardil and Parnate – similar to TCAs.
The most commonly used ones among the antidepressants are SSRIs. MAOIs are normally the last option since these drugs are likely to interact dangerously with beverages, foods and other drugs and so the patients must stick to a strict diet to avoid any after-effects.