Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

by Howard Gerber on August 30, 2011

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, is an anxiety disorder that occurs in individuals who have been exposed to a traumatic event. The disorder is receiving more national media attention than in the past because of the number of new cases being seen in veterans returning from the wars in the Middle East.

Symptoms

There are three symptom categories associated with PTSD: reliving, avoidance, and arousal.

Reliving

  • Flashbacks
  • Memories that surface repeatedly
  • Nightmares
  • Strong reactions to similar events.

Avoidance

  • Ambivalence
  • Avoiding people, places, or thoughts of the event
  • Becoming emotionally reserved
  • Detachment
  • Disinterest in everyday activities
  • Feeling as though there is no future
  • Memory loss about the event

Arousal

  • Agitation
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty remaining asleep
  • Dizziness
  • Easily startled
  • Exaggerated response to being startled
  • Excitability
  • Fainting
  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations
  • Hyper vigilance
  • Increased anger
  • Irritability
  • Problems concentrating 

Causes

PTSD can be triggered by any event that the individual finds to be traumatic. Not all people exposed to the same event will react by developing PTSD. However, some events are commonly found to trigger PTSD. The exact cause of the disorder is unknown although it is believed that genetic, psychological, social, and physical factors are all contributors.

  • Domestic Abuse
  • Physical Assault
  • Prison
  • Rape
  • Terrorism
  • War

Treatment

The prognosis for a patient with PTSD improves with an early diagnosis and treatment and a strong support network. Treatment options include individual therapy, support groups, and desensitization programs.

Virtual reality has received a lot of attentions from therapists and academics as a unique way to administer desensitization treatments. The person is actually put back into a virtual environment similar to the one that triggered the PTSD. This has been primarily used for people returning from combat. The similar environment experienced by the veterans makes it easier for developers to create a virtual world that can be used by numerous patients.

Research

One of the largest research initiatives revolving around PTSD is the National Center for PTSD.  Veterans Affairs operate the various research centers. Because of the high numbers of PTSD in the military, the VA has a number of patients who need their services and more patients with which to try new techniques. They offer online resources, education and consultation opportunities for members of the health community, which may allow private practitioners to help nonmilitary PTSD patients.

How often do you see new patients with PTSD? Have you seen any trends in patients with the disorder? Are there any events that seem more likely than others to trigger PTSD? What are your favorite PTSD resources?

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