Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – What Exactly is it?

One of the most complex forms of anxiety disorder to cope with is post traumatic stress disorder, first recognized as shell shock and battle fatigue. These names themselves indicate a lack of understanding of what was happening with these soldiers, many of whom were accused of “faking” symptoms to avoid being sent back to active duty. In those early days it was quite disconcerting to watch pictures of soldiers “reliving” their traumatic experiences as though they were still happening. While it now is diagnosed as “post-traumatic stress”, it is that same debilitating disorder that literally ruined the lives of so many military personnel. However, today, lives do not have to be ruined by this anxiety-related disorder if the situation is dealt with immediately and if treatment focuses on the root cause rather than individual symptoms. We will briefly look at some causes and effects, symptoms, and treatments of post traumatic stress.

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be experienced by individuals either witnessing or actually experiencing some traumatic catastrophe. Such catastrophes can be anything like: war, death of a parent or other loved one, major disaster (fatal accident, tornado, school attacks or killings), rape, child abuse, or any form of abuse against humanity. Quite understandably, post traumatic stress disorder produces other results such as: extreme fear, anxiety, guilt, feelings of loss of control, anger, depression, which can lead to nightmares, amnesia, and even personality changes, to name just a few. With children, some after effects can be learning disabilities, self abuse and attention difficulties.

Research reveals two specific symptoms of post traumatic stress labeled arousal and avoidance symptoms. The arousal symptoms are moodiness, lack of concentration and memory, over-reactions and proneness toward violence while the avoidance symptoms are unwillingness or inability to remember the trauma, and reluctance to feel or talk about emotions. When discussing symptoms, it is important to understand that although sometimes symptoms may occur within two or three months, in some cases, it may be years before symptoms develop. And not every victim of these circumstances develops post traumatic stress disorder; for many the symptoms may stop after a month or so. In such instances, the web is a source for programs dealing with these anxiety related symptoms, that may possible prevent the onset of PTSD.

Post traumatic stress disorder occurs only after the symptoms have persisted over months and years. Research indicates that “because the root cause of PTSD is at the point of the stress itself”, where the body system overloads with stress, shuts down and then restarts, later under certain conditions the mind returns to that point of starting and stopping, causing the individual to relive what is called the “flashbacks”. These flashbacks, triggered through the five senses, are considered to be the most disturbing symptom, lasting from minutes to hours.

It is imperative that individuals experiencing post traumatic stress disorder be treated immediately before the trauma has a chance to be suppressed, that is, hidden somewhere in the mind. Reconnection with loved ones is especially important. Thankfully, many treatments are available for dealing with anxiety-related disorders. While some approaches focus on eliminating the disorder, others, such as cognitive behavior programs, focus on managing and coping with the stress or anxiety disorder. Psychotherapy is perhaps the usual treatment; group therapy helps especially in reconnecting with a social network, and drama therapy provides a means of productively reenacting the event and dealing with the triggers and emotions of the trauma; faith based support groups offer spiritual as well as emotional and physical healing; medications and natural supplements are also available as treatment for post traumatic stress disorder.

Post traumatic stress disorder must be recognized for what it is: an anxiety related condition that can and must be treated. Life is a precious commodity and is meant to be lived to its fullest!