Mental Health

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

What is PTSD

For you to better understand me, and what I experience, it will be helpful if you understand what PTSD is all about.  The following is borrowed from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America website:  www.adaa.org

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a serious potentially debilitating condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist incident, sudden death of a loved one, war, violent personal assault such as rape, or other life-threatening events.

PTSD is diagnosed after a person experiences symptoms for at least one month following a traumatic event. However, symptoms may not appear until several months or even years later.

The disorder is characterized by three main types of symptoms:

  • Re-experiencing the trauma through intrusive distressing recollections of the event, flashbacks, and nightmares.
  • Emotional numbness and avoidance of places, people, and activities that are reminders of the trauma.
  • Increased arousal such as difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy, and being easily irritated and angered.

 

Diagnosis criteria that apply to adults, adolescents, and children older than six include those below.  

Exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violation:

  • directly experiencing the traumatic events
  • witnessing, in person, the traumatic events
  • learning that the traumatic events occurred to a close family member or close friend; cases of actual or threatened death must have been violent or accidental
  • experiencing repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic events.

 

The presence of one or more of the following: 

  • spontaneous or cued recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive distressing memories of the traumatic events (Note: In children, repetitive play may occur in which themes or aspects of the traumatic events are expressed.)
  • recurrent distressing dreams in which the content or affect (i.e. feeling) of the dream is related to the events (Note: In children, there may be frightening dreams without recognizable content.)
  • flashbacks or other dissociative reactions in which the individual feels or acts as if the traumatic events are recurring (Note: In children trauma-specific reenactment may occur in play.)
  • intense or prolonged psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic events
  • physiological reactions to reminders of the traumatic events
  • persistent avoidance of distressing memories, thoughts, or feelings about or closely
    associated with the traumatic events or of external reminders (i.e., people, places,
    conversations, activities, objects, situations)

 

Two or more of the following: 

  • inability to remember an important aspect of the traumatic events (not due to head injury, alcohol, or drugs)
  • persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs or expectations about oneself, others, or the world (e.g., “I am bad,” “No one can be trusted,” “The world is completely dangerous”).
  • persistent, distorted blame of self or others about the cause or consequences of the traumatic events
  • persistent fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame
  • markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
  • feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
  • persistent inability to experience positive emotions

 

Two or more of the following marked changes in arousal and reactivity: 

  • irritable or aggressive behavior
  • reckless or self-destructive behavior
  • hypervigilance: “…the experience of being constantly tense and ‘on guard’ – your brain is on high alert in order to be certain danger is not near.” (borrowed from http://www.ptsduk.org)
  • exaggerated startle response
  • problems with concentration
  • difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep

 

Also, clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning not attributed to the direct physiological effects of medication, drugs, or alcohol or another medical condition, such as traumatic brain injury.

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