Ptsd: a Focus on Civilians and Grief

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PTSD

1

Running Head: PTSD

PTSD: A Focus on Civilians and Grief
Brian A. Wong
Marshall University

Author Note
Brian A. Wong, junior psychology major, counseling minor, Department of Psychology, Marshall University.
This research was an assignment in Abnormal Psychology (PSY 408) taught by Jason R. Weaver, due Monday, April 23, 2012.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Brian A. Wong, Psychology Major, Department of Psychology. Email: brian.wong@live.marshall.edu

PTSD

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When one hears that someone is grieving a loss, they may think that a loved one died.

Many do not know that in order for one to grieve, the loss does not have to involve a death. A similar idea applies to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); many associate PTSD with military combat. Although PTSD is commonly known to be diagnosed in war veterans, PTSD can also be diagnosed in civilians. Often, as in the case with bereavement and grief, little to no attention is given to young children in such situations; children tend to cope differently with traumatic events. Treatment options for PTSD include psychodynamic, behavioral, and existential therapies. Another related topic of importance related to PTSD is grief. There are some similarities in grief and PTSD, especially with coping.

According to the American Psychiatric Association (2001), the essential feature of PTSD is the direct exposure to a traumatic event where death or serious injury is threatened (or learning about such a traumatic event that is personal to the person learning about it) and causes “threat to one’s physical integrity” (p. 463) and the “traumatic event is persistently reexperienced” (p. 468). As a result, the person experiences fear, helplessness, or horror. In order for a person to be a candidate for a PTSD diagnosis, the symptoms must be experienced for a month or more. Also, clinically significant distress or impairment in functioning related to occupational and social aspects of one’s life must be present. A person with PTSD may cope with the trauma by avoiding reminders, or stimuli, that are associated with their exposure to the trauma. The individual may have developed difficulty with falling or staying asleep.

There are three specifiers for PTSD: 1) acute PTSD: when symptoms last less than three months; 2) chronic PTSD: when the symptoms persist for three months or longer; and 3) delayed onset: when symptoms persist for at least six months.

PTSD

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If a person is exposed to a reminder of the traumatic event, they may experience

flashbacks. An example of a reminder of the event can include anniversaries of the event. As a reaction to the reminder of the event, the affected person will experience intense psychological distress or physiological reactivity. Sometimes, rarely, the person may experience a dissociative state, lasting anywhere from seconds to days, behaving as if the event is actually happening (American Psychiatric Association, 2000).

A particular vulnerable population to PTSD and grief is young children. Often when there is a traumatic event or if a family member dies, at times there is not much attention given to young children. Parents often make efforts to reduce the effects of a death on the child (DeSpelder & Strickland, 2005; James, Friedman, & Matthews, 2001). There is a misperception that the very young possess little comprehension of the death of a loved one, thus they are not included in related discussions and rituals (Doka, 2008). However, children do show signs of their curiosity about death. Young children try to comprehend death-related experiences; at around the age of five years, it is usually evident that experiences and thoughts related to death are present in children in their play and questions (DeSpelder & Strickland, 2005; Walsh-Burke, 2006). Adults have a large impact on children’s understanding of death and loss. When discussing death and loss with a child, it is important to be...
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