The development of modern warfare has seen an increase in the effects on individuals after the event. However, despite the common occurrence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in military personnel, PTSD is a serious disorder that can affect anyone of any age dealing with a significant trauma in their life. Most people, at some point in their lives, will experience traumatic events, but only a small percentage of these will become affected by PTSD. The symptoms are similar to how a majority of people react to trauma, but the difference is in duration. Usually symptoms will abate within a few weeks, but it is characterized by the enduring symptoms that last for a month or more. Sometimes the disorder will not start to develop until several months after the trigger event.
What is PTSD?
Understanding post-traumatic stress disorder and how it differs from other conditions is important in helping an individual deal with the disorder. It is classified as a type of anxiety disorder, and those affected will display similar symptoms to those with anxiety and depression.
After a traumatic event, many people experience what is known as an acute stress response. This is a more short-term response and more common, but if symptoms last longer than a month and significantly affect work and home life, it may be PTSD.
Causes of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
As previously mentioned, PTSD is commonly associated with soldiers returning from war, but in reality any number of traumatic events can trigger the development of the disorder. Physical, mental, or sexual abuse, particularly over a long duration, is linked to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder, particularly in children. Accidents, such as car or plane crashes, fires, etc., and terminal illness diagnosis are other significant triggers. Severe natural disasters, including tsunamis, hurricanes, and earthquakes have a major link to PTSD in those affected and also the service workers called to respond to the disaster.
These types of experiences are truly traumatic, but not everyone who experiences events like these will develop PTSD. Other factors, including a neurobiological predisposition and psychological history, can determine the onset and severity of PTSD. While there is still a lot of different speculation on this front, doctors have determined several factors related to hormone levels and genetic conditions that may have an affect.
Symptoms of PTSD
There are two main symptom groups for individuals suffering from PTSD: the physical and the mental/emotional. The physical responses are similar to those of anxiety disorders such as:
– Disrupted sleep or irregular sleep patterns
– Elevated heartbeat
– Tension (including aches and pains)
– Irregular breathing
The emotional responses can be the more disturbing and disruptive of the symptoms associated with PTSD. These can include:
– Vivid flashbacks and nightmares
– Increased anxiety and unease
– Loss of interest in everyday tasks and hobbies
– Difficulty concentrating
– Emotional detachment
– Alcohol and drug abuse
After a traumatic event occurs, there are several preventative treatments that might inhibit the development of post-traumatic stress disorder. Immediately following an event, psychological debriefing is often used to help the individual understand what happened. This form of treatment is very common in disasters, accidents, and warfare, but the ultimate success is under debate by medical professionals. Low levels of cortisol are linked to the development of PTSD, so a treatment of cortisol may be effective.
Once post-traumatic stress disorder has been diagnosed, a number of treatment options exist to help the individual affected. Medications are commonly prescribed to help ameliorate the physical symptoms, though these seem to be most effective when used with other forms of treatment. Individual counseling helps to deal with thoughts pertaining to the trauma and coping with how suffering from PTSD has affected daily life. Many professionals also recommend family therapy and support groups to emphasize the individuals are not alone and help better the stresses placed on families dealing with a member with PTSD.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a very serious condition, but with proper care and treatment, individuals can hope to return eventually to a normal pattern of life. While this is often associated with soldiers coming back from combat, anyone who has gone through a traumatic, extremely stressful event may suffer from its effects. The development of PTSD is a result of a number of factors and does not result from a lack of bravery or an inability to cope.