Coping with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder:
Taking the Painful or Peaceful Approach
September 26, 2012
In studying the world of mental health, there are so many interesting topics to explore. The behavior of the human race is fascinating, and there is much to be learned from studying them. One topic in particular that is both fascinating and ever-increasing is post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. This is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a traumatic event or situation. This situation usually results in witnessing or experiencing personal physical harm. People with PTSD experience have debilitating thoughts of their ordeal, leading to problems sleeping, feelings of detachment or numbness, and problems assimilating back in to society after the event has occurred. Significant research has been done on effective ways to treat this debilitating disorder. Two of the most successful treatments, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, have provided the mental health community with a way to combat this disorder that plagues a growing number of people.
Nearly everyone can recall an event in their lives which they considered traumatic. Whether it be the loss of a loved one, an accident of some kind, or having witnessed an upsetting incident. We frequently dwell on these situations for a short while, each person grieving or coping in their own way. Then it becomes filed in the back of our minds and we proceed with our normal, every day lives. With some people, however, these events play a much larger role in their lives. The traumatic occurrence they experienced has an enormous impact on their daily lives, making it difficult for them to function normally in society. This type of psychological condition is known as post-traumatic stress disorder, and is something that plagues an increasing number of people in the United States. We will explore the epidemiology of PTSD, and delve in to two of the most successful ways to treat the disorder. Who has PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder does not discriminate. It affects men, women, children, whites, blacks, Hispanics, and so on. One common thing links patients diagnosed with PTSD. That is, they have each experienced an extremely traumatic event that has essentially scarred them for life. In order to properly diagnose a patient with PTSD, a number of criteria have to be evaluated.
First of all, that patient has to have been exposed to a traumatic event where they either experienced, witness, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened harm upon them. The person’s response must also involve intense fear, helplessness or horror. (American Psychiatric Association, 467) Additionally, the traumatic event must be consistently re-experienced by the person, whether it be traumatic thoughts, dreams, or actions re-living the situation. Another consideration in diagnosis is to be sure the person experiences avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, like avoiding public places, personal conversations, or personal thoughts of hopelessness or depression. This person also experiences over stimulation due to the traumatic event, causing trouble sleeping, outbursts of anger, or difficulty focusing. (APA, 468)
Clinical diagnosis of PTSD can be difficult, as the person who has experienced the event can often have a difficult time recalling the event. They can frequently leave large parts of the story out, or are simply unable to remember what happened. When asked about the event, the patient tends to shut down, exhibit symptoms of amnesia, or change the subject. If a person experiences the above behavior for over one month and is unable to cope with the situation on their own, it warrants further research and the need for personal attention and professional treatment. (Hambien, 1)
Living with post-traumatic...
References: American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 2000.
Devilly, Grant. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: A Chronology of Development and Scientific Standing The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice 1(2). 113-134.
Hambien, PhD, Schnurr, PhD, Rosenberg, MA, & Eftekhari, PhD. National Center for PTSD, Overview of Psychotherapy for PTSD. (2012) www.ptsd.va.gov.professional/pages/overview-treatment-research.asp .1-6.
Keane, T.M. & Kaloupek, D.G. (1996). Cognitive behavior therapy in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder. The Clinical Psychologist, 49 (1), 7-8
National Center for PTSD. Understanding PTSD Treatment. February 2011. www.ptsd.va.gov/public/understanding 1-8.
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