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Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder



Earlier known as an anxiety disorder, now Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is considered as trauma- and stressor-related disorder in the fifth revision of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V).

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness that can be triggered by the experience of a traumatic event. It affects people in different ways, but PTSD is most often characterized by flashbacks, nightmares, and panic attacks. Trauma is any event that causes extreme fear or distress to a person. Stressors are events or situations that cause a person to feel stress. A traumatic event could be anything from a car accident to being fired from your job.

According to a study, one in eleven American adults have PTSD. Every year, American population has 3.5% adults as PTSD patients.

Factors causing PTSD

Any extreme situation can disturb the mind to extent of causing post-traumatic stress. Such extreme situation can be bullying, child abuse, combat, hostage situations, natural disaster, rape, or any kind of serious accident.

There is no certainty for people experiencing traumatic events to develop PTSD. Most people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder are those who at some point of their lives have experienced interpersonal violence such as rape, kidnapping, other types of sexual assaults, being stalked, or physical abuse by an intimate partner. People who went through incest or some other form of sexual abuse during childhood are more likely to develop PTSD, compared to people who experienced non-assault-based trauma, such as road accidents and natural disasters.

Some factors are as follows:

  1. War related trauma: 

    Some long-term (chronic) exposure to a severe stressor can also cause post-traumatic stress. Such stressor can be soldiers enduring individual battles but unable to cope with continuous combat.

    Many researches and studies have been conducted on Vietnam war veterans, as well as victims of natural disasters and non-natural disasters. These studies concluded that the degree of exposure to a disaster could be the best predictor of PTSD.

  2. Psychological trauma:

    The range of traumatic events that can cause PTSD is very wide. The risk of a person developing PTSD after a traumatic event can vary by trauma type. According to researches, it is highest following exposure to sexual violence (11.4%), particularly rape (19.0%). Although men are more likely to suffer from PTSD by experiencing a traumatic event (of any type), women are more likely to suffer from PTSD by going through high-impact traumatic event such as domestic violence and sexual assault.

  3. Traffic accidents: 

    According to a survey, about 2.6% of adults are diagnosed with PTSD after surviving a non-life-threatening traffic accident. A similar proportion of children also develops PTSD the same way. Hence, it can be assumed that in many cases (if not all), motor vehicle collision survivors, both children as well as adults are at an increased risk of suffering from PTSD.

    According to another survey, risk of PTSD almost doubles to 4.6% for life-threatening auto accidents. Due to such accidents, females are more likely to be diagnosed with PTSD irrespective of the accident having occurred during childhood or adulthood.

  4. Unexpected death of a loved one: 

    According to many studies, sudden and unexpected death of a loved one is the most common traumatic event type that can give birth to many PTSD symptoms. However, majority people witnessing unexpected death of a loved one do not develop PTSD.

    According to a survey, the risk of developing PTSD after learning about the sudden and unexpected death of a loved one was 5.2%. On a worldwide basis, every year unexpected (and sudden) death of a loved one accounts for approximately 20% of PTSD cases due to high prevalence of unexpected deaths, especially in developing countries.

  5. Life-threatening illness: 

    There are many life-threatening medical conditions associated with an increased risk of PTSD. Such conditions include cancer, heart attack, and stroke. According to a study, 22% of cancer survivors experience lifelong symptoms that are similar to PTSD. Hospitalization in Intensive-care unit (ICU) is also a risk factor that might cause a person to suffer from PTSD. Some female PTSD patients start experiencing the symptoms of PTSD after seeing threats to their lives in the form of breast cancer and mastectomy. Friends, family members (such as parents of child with chronic illnesses), and other loved ones of people experiencing life-threatening illnesses are also at risk for developing PTSD.

  6. Pregnancy-related trauma: 

    To know about Pregnancy-related trauma, click here to see our section on Pregnancy-related trauma.

  7. Genetics:

    There have been many medical cases where susceptibility to post-traumatic stress disorder turned out to be hereditary. According to a survey, approximately 30% of the variance in PTSD was caused from genetics alone. According to preliminary findings, women with a smaller hippocampus could be likely to develop PTSD after experiencing a traumatic event. According to a research, PTSD shares many (if not all) genetic influences that are common to other psychiatric disorders. There is 60% similarity in the genetic variance of Panic and generalized anxiety disorder. The genetic similarities between alcohol dependence, drug dependence, and nicotine dependence are greater than 40%.

    Due to scientific advancement, many biological indicators related to later PTSD development have been identified.

  8. Social Experiences:

Social experiences like bullying in school during childhood and incidents of domestic violence at home can also cause post-traumatic stress disorder and many other disorders.

Types of PTSD

Prolonged trauma, such as slavery, hardships of concentration camps, or chronic domestic abuse can also cause a different type of PTSD called complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). Many Jews who survived the hardships of concentration camps of Nazis and luckily came out alive also suffered from C-PTSD. Although similar to PTSD, C-PTSD distinctly affects the emotional regulation as well as core identity of a patient.

Symptoms of PTSD

PTSD is a condition that occurs after exposure to a traumatic event or stressful situation. Symptoms may include intrusive memories of the traumatic event, emotional numbing, hyper vigilance and difficulty sleeping. They may also include disturbing thoughts, negative feelings, mental or physical distress to trauma-related cues, attempts to avoid trauma-related cues, dreams related to the traumatic events, changes in the way a person thinks and feels, along with an increase in the fight-or-flight response.

Various factors related to PTSD can cause sleep disorders.

According to a study about the post-traumatic stress reactions among children and adolescents, it was found that the rate of PTSD was be lower in children compared to adults. However, in the absence of therapy and due to unawareness about PTSD, symptoms were likely to continue in patients for decades with people unaware about the concept of PTSD perceiving PTSD patients as people with behavioral problems.

An estimate related to that study suggested that the proportion of children and adolescents having PTSD in a population that was not in a war-torn region and in a developed country might be 1%, compared to 1.5% to 3% of adults. On an average, although 16% of children exposed to a traumatic event develop PTSD, the type of exposure and gender varied in all cases.

Just like the adult population, child patients of PTSD also face similar risk factors that can give birth to PTSD symptoms in those children. Such factors include exposure to disasters (natural or manmade), female gender, negative coping behaviors, and/or lacking proper social support systems.

Treatment of PTSD

PTSD treatment methods can vary greatly, depending on the severity of your symptoms, but there are several proven ways to that can help PTSD patients to overcome this condition.

The main treatments for people with PTSD are counselling (via psychotherapy method) and medication. Regarding psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one other most preferred methods of PTSD treatments.

Antidepressants of the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) type or Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) type are the first-line medications that used for PTSD treatment. They are moderately beneficial for about half of patients. According to various researches regarding PTSD treatment, benefits offered by counselling are higher than the benefits offered by medication. It is not known whether using counselling and medications together offers greater benefit compared to using either of these methods separately.

As medications other than some SSRIs or SNRIs, such as benzodiazepines, do not have enough evidence to support their use, using them without guidance, consultation, or supervision from doctor can worsen outcomes. Before the introduction of SSRIs in medical sector, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) such as phenelzine were used for the treatment of that kind of social anxiety that could give birth to PTSD.

In children and adolescents, many emotional regulation difficulties give birth to post-traumatic stress symptoms, irrespective of their age, gender, or type of trauma. Such symptoms include anger outbursts, mood swings, and temper tantrums.

Prevention of PTSD

Prevention of post-traumatic stress disorder may be possible when patients with early symptoms receive counselling. However, counselling is not guaranteed to be effective on all trauma-exposed individuals who can be with or without symptoms.

Finding PTSD Treatment Experts with HelloDr

On HelloDr website, you can find psychologists and psychiatrists to discuss the symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Based on symptoms, an expert can prescribe counselling or medication that you need. Click here to see the list of PTSD treatment specialists. The list of PTSD treatment specialists is visible only registered users.