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Long-term Consequences of Exposure to Stress or Trauma

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The affective component of memories is what I would like to further explore, particularly in light of endured traumas and the role of stress on this process. One of the long-term consequences of exposure to stress or trauma is the development of posttraumatic stress disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD. An individual with this disorder has been exposed to a traumatic event in which he or she experienced, witnessed, or was confronted by actual or threatened death or serious injury, or by a threat to the physical integrity of self or others. The person's response at the time involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror. The characteristic symptoms include persistently re-experiencing the trauma and subsequent feelings that emerged during the event in the form of dreams, recollections, or flashbacks. In addition, individuals avoid stimuli associated with the trauma, and persistent symptoms of increased arousal when faced with triggers to the trauma. Lastly, symptoms must last for more than one month.

Several ready examples that come to mind of some of the long-term consequences of trauma on functioning include combat veterans, inmates who were incarcerated for long periods of time and survivors of abuse. For example, two of my uncles are veterans. One fought in WW II and the other in Vietnam. While the former became an alcoholic and developed womanizing behavior, the latter developed ulcers. While currently participating in support groups at the VA, the latter uncle and many of his group members report increased PTSD symptoms as they see the many casualties and survivors of war from Iraq seeking services at the VA, facilitating a kind of vicarious re-experience of war and impacting their ability to function.

In terms of attempts to treat or ameliorate the symptoms of stress and trauma, do you think it is possible to facilitate different contingencies (remember this term from your classes where operant conditioning was discussed) between those things that may trigger such memories?

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I believe it is possible to condition the mind to only see or respond to specific stimuli, or rather to not respond to specific stimuli. Robert Rescorla's work shows that in order for conditioning to happen, a "conditioned stimulus" must supply information about the "unconditioned stimulus" in other words, there must be a condition stimulus - unconditioned stimulus contingency. ...

Solution Summary

Blocking stimuli can assist those that have been affected or diagnosed with PTSD. A person can be conditioned to respond positively to a negative stimuli instead of negatively by cognitive therapy.