What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a term that was introduced in the psychiatric classification system in 1980. Prior to 1980, the syndrome went by many other names:
– After the Civil War, veterans who had PTSD were said to have “soldier’s heart” or “irritable heart”
– After World War I, veterans who had PTSD were said to have “shell shock”
– After World War I, veterans who had PTSD were said to have “combat fatigue”
– After Vietnam, veterans who had PTSD were said to have “Post-Vietnam Syndrome”
The term post-traumatic stress disorder was officially recognized in 1980 when it was included as an anxiety disorder in the 3rd edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-iii). PTSD is defined as an anxiety disorder that some people get after experiencing or witnessing an event “outside the range of usual human experience”. The sufferer continues to re-experience the original memories and have intrusive thoughts about the scary experience.
No one knows why two people who experience the same event can have a different reaction:
- One person develops PTSD
- The other person bounces back to a normal level of functioning
Susceptibility to PTSD may be dependent on many factors including genes, child abuse, the severity or duration of the trauma or a person’s brain structure and functioning. What we do know is that people with PTSD are at a higher risk to attempt suicide. A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry in 2009 demonstrated that youths who had PTSD were five times more likely to attempt suicide than youths who had been exposed to trauma, but did not develop PTSD. The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that a person with PTSD is six times more likely to attempt suicide than a person from the general population.
People with PTSD to varying degrees re-live the trauma in their mind, body, or sometimes visualize it happening over again. These are called flashbacks. A person with PTSD may begin efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings or conversations about the event. He or she will often engage in a very busy life, because it is during idle moments that intrusive thoughts and memories haunt them. The things that originally frightened them may begin to generalize to other things and activities, which causes their world to shrink. They usually become increasingly cautious and phobic.
A list of other symptoms related to PTSD is as follows:
1. Re-experiencing flashbacks and having nightmares about the traumatic event.
2. Hyper arousal symptoms accompanying the memory
3. An avoidance of thinking of talking about the traumatic event
4. Numbing or a feeling of “unreality”
5. Issues with anger or a preoccupation with revenge
7. Difficulty focusing or concentrating
Our next article titled, “An Easy Solution for PTSD” continues this discussion.