Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

A woman with Post Traumatic Disorder

Defining Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is one of the severest forms of anxiety disorders occurring when people are exposed to extremely traumatic events such as physical assault, sexual assault, a serious accident, or threat to life.

PTSD may cause an increased adrenaline response leading to deep neurological patterns in the brain. Such patterns tend to persist for a long time after the events that initially trigger such reactions, leaving the person fearful of the occurrence of such events in the future. During periods of extreme stress and trauma, the hypothalamic activity in the brain reduces immensely, contributing to PTSD. Patients suffering from PTSD are known to have extremely abnormal activities in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.

PTSD is far more dangerous than other anxiety disorders as it causes chemical changes in the brain that are considerably more dangerous than regular depression. People suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress disorder are known to have low serotonin levels which contribute extensively to anxiety and related behavioral disorders. People suffering from Acute Stress Disorder if not treated are prone to this disorder.

Signs and Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

  • Pounding heart
  • Heavy breathing
  • Nausea
  • Muscular tension
  • Avoiding discussions about the traumatic event
  • Increased anxiety
  • Recurrent flashbacks of an event
  • Nightmares related to the event
  • Feeling aloof from society
  • Somnolence
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Trouble in concentrating
  • Getting easily dragged into an emotional conversation
  • Avoiding activities, places, thoughts, or feelings that remind you of the event

Causes and Risk Factors

There are a number of psychological and pathological causes that can be held responsible for PTSD and people who have had exposure to extremely traumatic events for long durations of time are the most susceptible to PTSD. Military combat personnel, children who are regularly bullied at school, adolescents who are subject to family violence and people who have been through events such as a gory death scene of a threat to own life are typically the people who are most susceptible to PTSD.

There is increasing evidence which suggests that PTSD could be genetic. More than 30% of all people suffering from this disorder are known to have had a familial history of PTSD. Members of the same family who have a genetically similar hippocampus in the brain have roughly the similar probability to acquire PTSD when exposed to traumatic events.

When experiencing PTSD, an external event may trigger the feeling of “helplessness” and “fear” in the hypothalamus of the brain. Extreme reactions to the aftermath of violence, natural disasters, accident, assault, and other traumatic events that greatly impact of psychological functioning are the main causes of PTSD according to most research studies.

PTSD could be extremely detrimental to the health, as the traumatic flashbacks could keep recurring. PTSD should not be taken lightly and immediate action should be taken appropriately so that symptoms do not worsen. If this disorder is left untreated this may lead to more sever disorders like Depersonalization Disorder. Other risk Factors may include:

  • Childhood trauma
  • Chronic adversity
  • Familial stressors
  • Women are more susceptible to PTSD as compared to men
  • People with a military background or experience in a battlefield/terrorist hit area

Treatment

PTSD is best treated when diagnosed at an early stage. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is one of the most potent ways of addressing this condition in its early stages. Incident Stress Management is another way in which PTSD can be tackled and reversed at an early stage. While some medics suggest the use of benzodiazepines and other anti-depressants on patients suffering from trauma, the World Health Organization strongly recommends against its use on trauma patients.

People may also seek treatment at professional treatment centers dealing with anxiety related behavioral disorders. Rehabilitation centers can guide people in overcoming the aftermath of traumatic events and help them return to normal day-to-day functioning.

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