Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that affects individuals who have experienced intense emotional trauma in the past, which may occur during war, as a result of severe physical injury, accidents, sexual assault or other dramatic events with an intense negative mental impact. The disorder is relatively common in military veterans who have engaged in war, in victims of sexual abuse or accidents.
However, the majority of people who go through a psychologically traumatic event do not develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is classified as an anxiety disorder, and it is treated with similar interventions as other disorders in this group, including psychotherapy and antidepressant medication. However, there are treatment methods specific for post-traumatic stress disorder, such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).
Symptoms of PTSD
Many individuals can exhibit the signs of acute stress following a traumatic event, but it does not represent the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. The following symptoms are typical for PTSD:
* Persistent flashbacks and disturbing memories
* Avoiding circumstances and stimuli that would trigger memories of the traumatic event
* Hyper-arousal and irritability
* Poor mental focus and mood disturbances
* A mental health professional can formulate the diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder if these symptoms are experienced for more than one month on a regular basis
Who gets it?
Post traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that can be associated with a specific traumatic event. Not all individuals who experience psychological trauma, including military combat, tragic accidents or sexual assault, suffer from PTSD symptoms later in life. The occurrence of PTSD symptoms can be delayed for several months and even years after the traumatic event.
* Women are more likely to develop PTSD than men.
* Adults develop the symptoms of PTSD more frequently than children. PTSD is uncommon in children under the age of ten years.
* A history of family violence experienced during childhood can make the individual more vulnerable to PTSD later in life.
* Approximately three percent of the population can experience PTSD at some point in their life, but the prevalence may change depending on the geographical region. Since war veterans are a considerable part of individuals affected by PTSD, the frequency of the disorder can change in the male adult population during involvement of a country in war.
There are no specific tests to diagnose PTSD. Brain imaging techniques, such as CT or MRI scans, are also rarely needed to rule out other conditions since the disorder is usually associated with a specific traumatic event, unlike other psychiatric conditions. The diagnosis is usually made based on self reported symptoms and their impact on the quality of life. An early diagnosis makes treatment interventions more efficient, which is why affected individuals or family members who suspect PTSD in their loved ones are encouraged to seek professional support without hesitation.
The recommended treatment methods depend on the intensity and duration of symptoms. There are multiple ways to manage PTSD symptoms, and a complete remission of symptoms is possible in the vast majority of affected individuals.
* Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is an intervention that is aimed specifically at changing the way the individual processes traumatic events on a psychological and emotional level. This form of psychotherapy has several phases, but it generally consists of the application of specific visual stimuli and eye movements while the patient tries to recall and visualize the traumatic event, which leads to a gradual desensitization. Other forms of psychotherapy are also effective.
* Antidepressants are drugs that are used to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety disorders or depression. Most antidepressants used in PTSD belong to the category of SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), which may help correct some neurochemical imbalances in the brain (low serotonin levels) as a result of stress.