PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome Disorder
According to APA.org (American Psychological Association) motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of PTSD. Any type of violent incident or accident - be it an assault or a car accident -- can be extremely traumatic. For many victims of trauma, the consequences of the incident will fade just as their physical wounds heal. Unfortunately, may other trauma victims develop what is known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD or PTSS), which calls for more intensive treatment.
What is PTSD?
During a traumatic situation, your heart may begin pounding, adrenaline may be pumping and your mind would be racing. Your fear and your body's response to that fear allows you to either fight against the situation or run from it. The "fight-or-flight" response to danger is a healthy and normal reaction. Someone suffering from PTSD will have a damaged or altered flight-or-fight response. They often feel stressed or even terrified long after they have been pulled out of a potentially dangerous situation.
PTSD can develop after a frightening ordeal that either resulted in physical harm or the threat of physical harm. It is possible to develop PTSD if you are the person who was injured or even if you only witnessed the harmful event. For example, soldiers who witness friends getting shot can experience PTSD just as much as those who are wounded. You do not, however, have to go to war to suffer from PTSD. Victims of dog attacks, mugging, rape, torture, child abuse, car accidents, plane crashes, bombings or even natural disasters can suffer from PTSD as well.
Symptoms of PTSD
Many PTSD symptoms can be grouped into three different categories:
- Re-experiencing trauma: For some, PTSD manifests in the form of flashbacks, bad dreams and terrifying thoughts. Many struggle with reliving their trauma over and over. In such cases, they may experience fight-or-flight like symptoms despite not currently being in any danger. There are many things that may trigger these debilitating symptoms such as a noise, object, situation or even the person's own thoughts.
- Avoidance: Some victims of PTSD either feel emotionally numb or for a strong need to stay away from places and events that remind them of their traumatic experience. Those who were involved in a traumatic car accident may never step into a car again. Victims of scary dog bite incidents may do whatever it takes to avoid being near a dog. Others experience guilt, depression, anxiety or worry. For many, PTSD can result in a loss of interest in activities they once loved.
- Hyperarousal: It is common for victims of PTSD to get easily startled or to feel on-edge. Some experience difficulties sleeping. Instead of being triggered like re-experiencing symptoms, hyperarousal symptoms can be constant. Many suffering from these types of symptoms are stressed or angry. Acute stress is common for victims of traumatic experiences, but it becomes PTSD if it persists for weeks or months.
PTSD and Children
Children can suffer from PTSD after being in a serious accident such as a car crash, swimming pool drowning incident or dog attack. While some children are able to move on from their experience, others have extreme reactions. Young children struggling with PTSD may start to wet their bed, lose their ability to communicate, act out in surprising ways or become clingy to their parents. Older children may begin to exhibit destructive behaviors or experience extreme guilt. It is important that children are given the opportunity to discuss what they have gone through with a professional.
Genes and PTSD
As is true with any illness, disease or disorder involving the brain, PTSD is incredibly complex. Scientists are actively researching how fear memories are created. For example, scientists are looking into stathmin, a protein integral to the formation of fear memories and gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP), a chemical in the brain that is released during emotional events. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, mice that do not make stathmin are less likely to freeze when facing danger and those with GRP can control their fear response. Unfortunately, many different genes likely affect PTSD. So there will be no easy or simple cure. Doctors hope to create targeted treatments that suit each victim's individual needs. One day, they may even be able to prevent PTSD before it causes harm.
The Cost of PTSD
Many victims of PTSD struggle to return to normalcy. Every aspect of their life is affected by the stress they experienced and the anxiety they continue to experience. These symptoms can often be lessened through various forms of therapy. It is necessary for victims of trauma to talk about their feelings and what they went through. For others, drugs such as Zoloft or Paxil may be needed to treat depression and reduce symptoms such as anger, worry and sadness.
Treatment for PTSD is necessary, but it is not cheap. Anyone who is experiencing PTSD because of the negligence of someone else would be well advised to obtain the support, counsel and treatment they need.Image credit