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Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Concept


Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD), a type of anxiety disorders, is a mental health condition that occurs as a result of terrifying, distressing or stressful events that are either experienced or witnessed. It is described as a long-lasting consequence of traumatic events that instills intensive horror, fear or a feeling of helplessness. In most cases, patients develop persistent avoidance of thinking about the traumatic event.

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Situational events that cause (or trigger) PTSD

According to Barnett and Hamblen (2014), the exposure to events that cause extreme trauma is the primary factor or risk. For instance, studies have shown that people at high risks of developing the condition are those exposed to extreme traumatic events such as the military personnel in combat, victims of violent crime, torture, domestic violence, natural disasters, terrorism and accidents (Barnett & Hamblen, 2014).

In most cases, people who witness the death of others under these circumstances experience PTSD, which results from the experience of “survivor’s guilt”. According to ADAA (2014), a person who remains alive after a traumatic incident while his or her colleagues perish in the incident is likely to develop PTSD. It has also been shown that children brought up under conditions that expose them to bullying, domestic or neighborhood violence and mobbing are at risk of developing the condition (Barnett & Hamblen, 2014).

Causes of PTSD

Violence is one of the major factors that cause PTSD. According to Cao, Wang, Wang, Dong and Quing (2013), more than 25% of the children raised in homes where domestic violence is common are likely to develop the condition. In particular, child abuse is a major cause of the condition.

Studies have shown that child abuse may cause PTSD at the later stages of a victim’s life (Cao, Wang, Wang, Dong & Quing, 2013). One of the reasons given to explain this phenomenon is that the experience of violence triggers a stress-related gene, which increases the risk in adults. Nevertheless, most studies have shown that intrusive memories of an incident in form of nightmares and flashbacks are the major factors leading to PTSD (Cao, Wang, Wang, Dong & Quing, 2013).

Geneticists and molecular biologists have attempted to describe a link between genetic factors and PTSD. According to Black and Andreasen (2011), a study done in the US to examine PTSD in the Vietnam War veterans show that monozygotic twins developed similar symptoms at same time and under similar conditions.

On the other hand, this evidence was not shown in dizygotic twins exposed to the similar conditions in the war. In addition, a gene that causes a reduction in the human hippocampus has been associated with a high risk of developing the condition after an individual is exposed to a traumatic event (Barnett & Hamblen, 2014).

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Drug, alcohol and substance abuse or overuse is likely to hinder the recovery process in individuals exposed to traumatic events (Barnett & Hamblen, 2014).

Clinical manifestations

In most people exposed to traumatic events, PTSD symptoms are manifested within the first three months of the event (Cao, Wang, Wang, Dong & Quing, 2013). There are four main categories of the symptoms. First, intrusive memories include recurrent and undesired distressing memories of the traumatic incident, reliving of the event and bad dreams about the event (Barnett & Hamblen, 2014).

Symptoms associated with avoidance are manifested by the tendency to avoid any situation that can rekindle the memories of the event, including talking or thinking about it. They also avoid people and places that can trigger the memories (Cao, Wang, Wang, Dong & Quing, 2013). Negative mood and thinking changes involve bad feelings, emotional numbness, hopelessness and difficulties in maintaining relationships. Emotional reactions are manifested through a feeling of guilt, irritations and aggressive behaviors.

Treatment and therapies

Managing the condition includes psychological, medication and alternative approaches. Cognitive behavior programs, exposure therapies, eye movement reprocessing and desensitization and stress inoculation training have been used to provide effective outcomes in people exposed to traumatic events (Barnett & Hamblen, 2014).

Medication includes a number of interventions aimed at reducing the symptoms because there is no drug for treating the condition. Hydrocortisone is a hormone-based drug that is provided to the patient immediately after the traumatic event and decreases the probability of developing PTSD (Barnett & Hamblen, 2014). In addition, propranolol is recommended for patients within the first six hours of the exposure to the traumatic event.

Professional approach of a nurse in caring for PTSD patients

Nurses have the responsibility of providing diagnosis, support and interventions to the PTSD patients. According to this view, nurses are supposed to providing “nursing diagnosis”, which includes a clinical judgment about the person, family and community responses to the potential or real health problems facing the victims (Cao, Wang, Wang, Dong & Quing, 2013).

Nurses are expected to provide psychological support through education and encouraging the patients and their families. The purpose is to ensure that the psychological symptoms of PTSD are reduced. In addition, nurses are required to make plans for medication and psychiatric interventions such as organizing interdisciplinary approaches.

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ADAA. (2014). Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Barnett, E. R., & Hamblen, J. (2014). Trauma, PTSD, and attachment in infants and young children.

Black, D. W., & Andreasen, N. (2011). Introductory textbook of psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Cao, C., Wang, L., Wang, R., Dong, C., & Quing, Y. (2013). Stathmin genotype is associated with re-experiencing symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder in Chinese earthquake survivors. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Boil Psychiatry, 44(2), 296–300.

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