Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Not every traumatized person gets full-blown PTSD, or experiences PTSD at all. PTSD is diagnosed only if the Acute Stress symptoms last more than a month. In those who do have PTSD, symptoms usually begin within 3 months of the trauma, and the course of the illness varies. Some people recover within 6 months, others have symptoms that last much longer. In some cases, the condition may be chronic. Occasionally, the illness doesn't show up until years after the traumatic event.
Specific Symptoms of PTSD
The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which 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 and the person's response involves intense fear, helplessness, or horror.
The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in one (or more) of the following ways:
· recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions.
· recurrent distressing dreams of the event.
· acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes, including those that occur on awakening or when intoxicated).
· intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event
· physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event
· The individual also has 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
· markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
· feeling of detachment or estrangement from others
· restricted range of affect (e.g., unable to have loving feelings)
· sense of a foreshortened future (e.g., does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span)
· Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (not present before the trauma), as indicated by two (or more) of the following:
· difficulty falling or staying asleep
· irritability or outbursts of anger
· difficulty concentrating
· exaggerated startle response
The disturbance, which has lasted for at least a month, causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
The focus of PTSD is a single life-threatening event or threat to integrity. However, the symptoms of traumatic stress also arise from an accumulation of small incidents rather than one major incident. Examples include:
· Repeated exposure to horrific scenes at accidents or fires, such as those endured by members of the emergency services (e.g. bodies mutilated in car crashes, or horribly burnt or disfigured by fire, or dismembered or disemboweled in plane disasters, etc)
· Repeated involvement in dealing with serious crime, e.g. where violence has been used and especially where children are hurt
· Breaking news of bereavement caused by accident or violence, especially if children are involved
· Repeated violations such as in verbal abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse, psychological abuse, stalking, bullying etc.