This is a serious anxiety disorder that affects people following exposure to an event that induces severe trauma.
The trigger may be an incidence such as the threat of death, either to oneself or someone close to you, or a threat to someone’s sexual, physical or psychological wellbeing. The disease, sometimes just known as PTSD, tends to make suffers extremely sensitive to normal life events, and re-exposure to the trigger may lead to a cascade of symptoms of mental instability. It has also been shown that minority ethnic groups, persons in their teens and females have a higher chance overall of developing PTSD.
Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Symptoms of PTSD manifest themselves as many common, mild psychological or physical issues, but what helps make a diagnosis is the occurrence of an overwhelming number of these symptoms. Symptoms are generally grouped into three types, those that relate to re-experiencing the original trauma, avoiding triggers, and symptoms relating to increased anxiety levels.
Re-experiencing original Trauma
- Frequent nightmares about the incident
- Constant memory flashbacks
- Intense frustration when reminded of the event
- Physical symptoms that remind of the incident including fast heart rate, profuse perspiration, labored breathing.
- Inability or reluctance to remember or discuss the events surrounding the incident
- Avoiding places or activities that flood thoughts of the incident
- Emotional instability and detachment from others in your life
- Sense of impending doom; you do not see a future for yourself living a normal life, having children, going places etc.)
- Lack of interest in activities and social exposures
- Difficulty concentrating
- Frequently irritable or easily offended
- Difficulty sleeping ( staying or falling asleep)
- Chronic tense state.
In addition, a couple other symptoms may be present that do not fit into those three large groups;
- Suicidal tendencies or thoughts
- Severe depression
- Substance abuse development
- Feelings of guilt or shame for the incident
Children and adolescents sometimes display different symptoms than those of adults, which may include;
- Nightmares or sleep disorders
- Loss of acquired skills ( such as bike riding, toilet training)
- Constant fear of separation from parents
- Development of several phobias unrelated to the original trigger
- Acting out in class ( picking fights, not doing homework)
- Bodily aches and pain
Causes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorders
The predominant cause of PTSD is exposure to an intense, terrifying, traumatic event that precipitates an acute anxiety response. These events may include:
- Military or combat exposure- veterans who experienced firsthand effects of death and brutality are often the most likely candidates to develop PTSD. A survey conducted revealed that female Hispanic soldiers were the most likely out of the group to experience PTSD.
- Sexual or physical abuse as a child- children are much less likely to handle traumatic events than adults, and experiencing such an event as a child will usually leave that child with the fear of the incident recurring as they grow. It may lead to that child losing acquired skills, as well as precipitating nightmares and social inhibition.
- Emotional or physical abuse as an adult- most cases of PTSD do occur in adults, but can have far reaching implications for them. Many develop relationship problems after experiencing abuse at the hands of a partner, and may later develop depressive illness.
- Sexual assault or violent attack- persons who experience rape or home attacks develop phobias about sex or being alone. In addition to causing worry about health status (transmission of STDs) women become apprehensive about males and may retreat into sexual dormancy. Violent attacks that cause bodily harm may result in physical incapacities or severe pain, among other things.
- Terrorist Attacks- the magnitude of these incidents stir widespread anxiety into the population, especially if resulting in loss of a family member. The highest ever mass PTSD event that was recorded followed the September 11th Terrorist attacks in the United States, after which diagnosis rates increased more than 500%. These events have far reaching consequences and cause significant impact on a country’s health system.
- Vehicular accidents- witnessing a vehicular accident, or being part of one yourself can induce a traumatic event due to the blood involved and sometimes witnessing decapitation of body parts. That person may develop a fear of travelling, and may need to attend counselling to show that it’s normal and safe to use the roads.
- Death of a loved one
- Natural disasters- the magnitude of these disasters, including loss of loved ones and life possessions, can lead to a deep depression and doomed view of the future (development of suicidal thoughts). The only solace to be taken is that you may be encouraged to attend community or group remedial sessions with emphasis on rebuilding and recovery ( physical, emotional and mental)
- Life-threatening disease condition- persons who develop chronic incurable illnesses, such as cancer or AIDS view their fate as doomed and are more likely to develop PTSD following diagnosis. Some individuals will try to live life to the max, while others become hermits waiting for the inevitable end.
Certain brain abnormalities in other individuals make them likely to develop PTSD without experiencing a traumatic event. These individuals also possess abnormal brain chemistry which may explain their innate tendency for the disorder.