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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Writing Suggestions

Assignment on the analysis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in relation to its affects on children (this information can easily by modified to apply to adults as well).

[NOTE: A student submitted the following information regarding PTSD and asked what else should be discussed about the disorder as it relates to children in order to complete a research paper on it.]

According to the DSM-IV-TR (Note: If using the DSM-V, simply use the updated diagnostic criteria from that edition, which will be similar to what is provided below from the 4th edition), when a person has been exposed to a traumatic event the following are signs that PTSD has developed:

1. The person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others.
2. The person's response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror. (Note: In children, this may be expressed instead by disorganized or agitated behavior.
If the traumatic event is re-experienced in one or more of the following along with how it affects children.
1. Recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections, images, thoughts or perceptions of the event (In younger children there may be repetitive play in which aspects of the event are expressed).
2. Recurrent distressing dreams of the event (For children, experiencing frightening dreams without recognizable content).
3. Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (For children, trauma specific reenactment may occur).
4. Intense psychological distress at the exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.
5. Physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.

There could be persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the trauma) as indicated by three or more of the following: efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma, efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma, inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma, sense of a foreshortened future.

Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (not present before the trauma) difficulty falling or staying asleep, hyper-vigilance, difficulty concentrating, irritability or outbursts of anger, exaggerated startle response. Duration of disturbance is more than one month with all the symptoms. This disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning.

Acute-duration is less than three months and Chronic-duration is three months or more of the stated symptoms and with delayed onset at least six months after the stressor and the onset of symptoms (DSM-IV-TR, p.468; American Psychiatric Association).

Solution Preview

When writing about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and children or adults it is helpful to include diagnostic criteria from the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders, fourth or fifth edition. However, an essay or paper on PTSD should also include additional information beyond what is listed in the DSM. In such a paper it is helpful to briefly summarize the diagnostic criteria because it is important for identifying whether or not an individual truly suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but it is important to avoid just reiterating the DSM. You can best demonstrate your understanding of the disorder by including additional information, such as examples.

As mentioned, one suggestion for writing about PTSD is to also provide real-life examples of each diagnostic criterion (see the numbered items from the DSM listed in the Long Description for this library solution). For ...

Solution Summary

This library solution provides suggestions for writing about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Writing suggestions include: what specific information to include from the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association, how to incorporate examples to illustrate DSM criteria, and other areas to include when writing about PTSD. A sample outline is also provided to highlight specific areas that might be discussed when writing about PTSD (for children or adults).