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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) includes an individual’s exposure to an extremely traumatic event and the subsequent experience. 

Causes

PTSD is caused by a psychologically traumatic event. This type of event typically involves actual or threatened death or serious injury. These triggers can include violent personal assaults, serious accidents, military combat, natural disasters or witnessing someone be seriously harmed or killed.

Signs

The symptoms of PTSD typically begin ~3 months after the traumatic event in question. Although this is usually the case, the onset can actually surface years later.

That 2,000 Yard Stare" by WW2 Veteran Tom Lea

PTSD symptoms fall into three categories:

1. Intrusive recollections (e.g., dreams, flashbacks, potentially hallucinations).

It is very common for those who suffer from PTSD to have powerful and recurring memories, nightmares or flashbacks in which they are forced to relive the traumatic experience.

2. Avoidant/numbing systems (e.g., feeling detached from others, not having feelings for people you previously had feelings for, or inability to recall events of trauma).

Avoidance occurs when sufferers actively avoid scenarios that may remind them of their distressing experiences. Emotional numbing actually occurs very soon after the initial event, causing someone to withdraw from loved ones and have difficulty feeling emotions.

3. Hyper-arousal symptoms (e.g., anger outbursts, difficulty sleeping, hyper vigilant state).

Insomnia is common in those who have PTSD. Many experience increased aggression and in rare cases, dissociative states.

Treatment

PTSD is often treated with a mixture of medication and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). The medication can help an individual control the depression and anxiety associated with PTSD and regulate their sleep patterns. CBT and exposure therapy help in weakening the grip the traumatic event has over an individual’s life.

There are many new and experimental treatments that are in trial or have emerged in the last 5 years. Here is an excellent example of new techonology being used to treat veterans who suffer from PTSD. This lab in Kingston is using biofeedback to retrain individual's brains to avoid using frequencies that trigger symptoms. 

 

Reference:

1. CMHA (2012). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.cmha.ca/mental_health/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/#.Up-oU8RDsrU. [Last Accessed 4.12.2013].

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