It is said that after a war or severe accidents the lucky ones are those who are dead. This is because the psychological scars which those and many other traumatic event leaves in the survivors are worse than death. In severe cases, the victim acts like a zombie unable to go through daily life. This is a severe illness, which psychologists have referred to as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and it is experienced by many people after a very traumatic event. Nowadays, with the incidences of vehicular accidents, terrorist strikes, and natural disaster on the rise, more and more people are suffering from this dreaded disorder. However, this is in no way a recent phenomenon. This disorder was first described by the Greek historian, Herodotus, in the year 490 BC. He described the case of a soldier during the Battle of Marathon, who became blind after witnessing the death of a fellow soldier, though that particular soldier did not receive any injury during the war. Then, as early as 1800s doctors began diagnosing soldiers with mental shutdown, as a result of trauma and stress, suffered during battle. No wonder, even now soldiers are the most common sufferers of this disease, and for obvious reasons. To know more read below for the causes, symptoms and treatment of PTSD.
Causes, Symptoms And Treatment Of PTSD
- People who were a victim of violence or even if they see violence that leaves a traumatic effect can suffer from this illness.
- In some cases, the death of a loved one can also cause this disorder. Even a life threatening illness of a loved one can lead to it.
- Witnessing or being in any life threatening accidents like car or plane crashes is another cause of PTSD.
- If the person witnesses or is the victim of any violent crimes then he or she can develop this disorder. Most often victims of kidnapping also suffer from it.
- Even natural disasters like massive landslides, hurricanes, etc can lead to this disorder in the victim.
- Sexual and physical abuse can also cause PTSD.
- Sometimes kids undergoing medical procedures can also develop PTSD.
- Some studies have also shown that susceptibility to PTSD has a genetic link. This is especially true in the case of twins.
- The person has recurrent flashbacks of the event. S/he also experiences recurring nightmares.
- The person also develops a certain kind of phobia of all the places, people, and situations that can remind him or her of the trauma. The phobia leads to a numbing of emotional responsiveness like lack of interest in doing all those activities that the person used to enjoy before the traumatic event.
- When a person with PTSD remembers the trauma a feeling of intense distress sets in along with rapid breathing, pounding heart, nausea, sweating and muscle tension.
- PTSD also causes sleep problems. Because of recurring thoughts of the trauma, the person has trouble going to sleep or wakes up frequently during sleep.
- Loss of focus, irritability, anger, unable to concentrate, difficulty in remembering things, blackouts, getting startled easily are some of the other symptoms.
- The person doesn’t show any ability to plan for the future and there is a sense that he or she may not live long. This can lead to depression and suicidal thoughts.
- The person with PTSD stays on constant alert (hyper-vigilance).
- People suffering of this disorder are also more prone to substance abuse. They also suffer from guilt and self-blame, and a sense of being alienated.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy is especially effective as it is trauma focused. The victim is slowly and carefully exposed to the feelings and situations that remind him or her of the trauma. In this therapy all those thoughts that distress the person regarding the trauma are also identified. Most often, these thoughts are distorted and irrational and so this therapy seeks to replace them with balanced images.
- Another treatment method is the use of a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy with rhythmic, left-right stimulation like eye movements or hand taps. In extreme stress, the brain’s information processing system is disrupted so the eye movements or other forms of stimulation unlocks it.
- Medication can only be used to treat the secondary symptoms of depression or anxiety. It cannot cure the disorder.