Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), is defined as a mental disorder arising as a result of an “event or situation in which one is exposed to serious threat of injury or death and the experiences extreme fear, hopelessness, or horror.” (Shiromani 2). Danger is something that most people experience at one time in their lives and the severity and the psychological effect it causes varies significantly. Depending on a combination of factors, people will always respond to dangerous and life threatening situations differently. Some people wil quickly forget such experiences and move on with life while other people can live with the trauma of the events for a long time. When the trauma caused by a dangerous and life threatening situation interferes with the daily functioning of an individual for an extended period of time, then the person can be said to be suffering from PTSD.
Recent studies have indicated that contrary to the previous postulation that PTSD was a rare condition, the disorder is actually common. The studies have established that most people fail to seek professional help due to lack of understanding of the dangers associated with the disorder or due to fear. In addition, it was thought that the only people who were in danger of suffering from PTSD were people who had experienced extremely traumatizing situations. The thought is actually true but it fails to recognize that people’s perception to situations are different and that there are cultural disparities that may pre-dispose some people to experience trauma after certain experiences more than others. In the US studies have indicated that women are twice as likely to suffer from PTSD as compared to men. In addition the studies realized that although women were twice as likely to suffer from PTSD as men, men experienced more traumatic events as compared to women. Among the persons who are more likely to suffer from PTSD are persons serving in the military, the police, fire fighters and other careers that constantly involve encounter with danger. In the US, close to 15% of the population will at one time in their lives experience a traumatic event that might lead to PTSD (Shiromani 4). Studies documented by (Follette 58) indicate that children are also more at risk of developing PTSD. In terms of race African Americans and Hispanics are more likely to develop PTSD that white Americans.
PTSD is usually described as a disorder associated with anxiety. Anxiety is described as a condition characterized by excessive worrying which leads to effects manifested psychologically and physically (Schiraldi 13). There are certain symptoms that doctors usually look for in a patient in addition to the patient’s history, in the diagnosis of PTSD. One symtpom is the recurrent experiences of the events of a trauma in nightmares or in disturbing thoughts. The victim will usually disturbing memories of the events that may be triggered by circumstances that remind the patient of certain details of the traumatic experience. For instance, a female rape victim may experience disturbing memories of the event when getting intimate with a male partner. The triggering events might not necessarily pose any danger but the memories they bring to the victim might be overwhelming and therefore leading to excess anxiety. The second symptom is the excessive development of fear of certain places, people or circumstances. The fear is some aspect of defense mechanism that the victim develops in an attempt to prevent the repetition of the traumatizing event. A victim of assult may aviod being in secluded places alone to the extent that they will not go out of the house. The intense psychological stress may emanate physical symptoms. Some of the physical symptoms include lack of sleep, hyperreaction to harmless situations or persons, loss of memory and recurrent blackouts (MedicineNet)
PTSD is either treated using medication or by putting the patient on a psychological therapy depending on the severity of the symptoms. One strategy involves teaching a PTSD victim of various ways to cope with the triggering situations and explaining to them that there are other people who have managed to get over their traumatic experiences. The nurturing of coping mechanisms is also important. Patients are taken through visual and verbal triggers of the events and then asked to apply the coping mechanisms they have learnt in the therapy sessions. A recent but not fully approved method include the Eye Movement Desensitization Reprosessing (EMDR). EMDR aims at allowing the patine to revisit the traumatic events and reprossess their experience to a more healthy perception by following the rapid finger movements of the therapist. Other forms of treatment target the symtoms and they include the administration of antidepressants and relaxation therapies to adress the sleep problems (MedicineNet).
Management of PTSD is an important aspect especially during the time that a patient is going through treatament. Management requires both effort from a patient and the patient’s family members and it may range from the aviodance of the triggering cisrcumstances unless it is done by the approval and in the presence of a therapist. Management also involves group therapies where patients suffering from PTSD may form groups and then share their experiences, challenges and strategies (Follette 18).
PTSD is a mental disorder with the capacity of affecting the productivity of an individual and reducing the quality of life of the victim. Prevalence statistics have indicated that PTSD is a common disease and many people are at risk. Current practices focus more on training people especially the ones at risk on strategies to aviod PTSD in case they encounter a traumatizing situation.