PTSD Definition and Diagnostic Criteria
Posttraumatic stress disorder is a condition, which potentially happens in individuals that had experienced an event that was threatening to their lives, for example, an accident, war, loss of a loved person, personal assault, and even rape. While the majority of people usually recover from the negative events that occurred in their lives, some cannot move on and are prone to anxiety, severe depression, and distress.
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The diagnosing criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder revolve around the individual’s exposure to a traumatic event, which results from the following events:
- Direct witnessing of a traumatic event;
- Direct experience of the traumatic event;
- Learning that a traumatic event happened with a close person who was actually under the threat of death (accidental or violent);
- Exposure to the details of the event (not including the media) (American Psychiatric Association, 2013, p. 1).
According to the research conducted by the National Center for PTSD, 7-8% of the U.S. population will experience posttraumatic stress disorder in their lives. Therefore, eight million adults suffer from PTSD every year, which makes a relatively small part of all people that experienced a traumatic event. When comparing the statistics about gender, women are much more prone to PTSD – 10% of women struggle with the disorder compared to the 4% of men (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2015, para. 8).
It is also important to mention that Veterans are exposed to traumatic events much more often and thus are more prone to posttraumatic stress disorder. In a given year, 11-20% of Veterans who served in OIF and OEF operations, 12% of veterans that served in the Desert Storm operations, and 15% who served in the Vietnam War are diagnosed with PTSD (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2015, para. 11).
The emergence of residual symptoms that accompany posttraumatic stress disorders in individuals currently presents a major challenge to the field of psychiatry. A person may be highly exposed to the neurobiological dysregulation triggered by the repeated environmental factors that increase the individual’s vulnerability. According to the research article written by McFarlane (2010), an increasing number of evidence suggest that the PTSD-associated allostatic load negatively affects the physical morbidity of the patient’s organism and is exhibited through hypertension, chronic pains in the muscles, cardiovascular disease, and hyperlipidemia, as well as obesity (p. 3).
Furthermore, the research has shown that the majority of posttraumatic stress disorder sufferers do not immediately deal with the maximal response to the traumatic events, rather, the mentioned residual symptoms are much more likely to occur in a progression as the time goes on.
PTSD Maladaptive Patterns
Individuals exposed to persistent effects of the posttraumatic stress disorder usually try controlling the threat of the symptoms by a range of maladaptive behavioral strategies or patterns to implement their suggestions of how trauma can be coped with. An example of the maladaptive pattern related to PTSD is thought suppression, which relates to pushing the thoughts and memories about the traumatic event out of one’s mind.
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However, such a strategy only increases the possibility of unwanted recollections. Other examples of maladaptive patterns related to PTSD are behaviors implemented to control the symptoms of the disorder. As with thought suppression, this strategy increases the possibility of other symptoms increasing. For instance, by going to very late to prevent the nightmares from occurring, an individual increases the possibility of irritability and lack of focus (Ehlers & Clark, 2000, p. 328). It is also important to mention the selective attention to threat cues, which also potentially increases the possibility of occurring emotions that relate to trauma.
Treatment and Interventions
Posttraumatic stress disorder treatment is targeted at reducing the acuity of the negative reactions of the patients as well as increasing their abilities of trauma-related emotions management as well as gaining confidence in the abilities to cope with negative emotions (Iribarren, Prolo, Neagos, & Chiappelli, 2005, p. 504). The first step in PTSD treatment is the assessment of the patient’s co-morbidities (abuse of substances, major depression, abuse of over-the-counter medications, as well as psychiatric disorders).
In cases when co-morbidities are detected, the treatment approach should be combined. The combined treatment approach has not been yet fully evaluated since the degree to which psychiatry and medication should be combined differs depending on the patients’ condition. Posttraumatic stress disorder interventions are also complicated by the existing co-morbidities in patients.
Interventions for treating PTSD are divided into pharmacological and non-pharmacological and are implemented either separately or in combination with the prior assessment of a patient’s physical and mental condition. Non-pharmacological interventions relate to psychotherapeutic approaches that are traditional for treating PTSD. The intervention of psychological debriefing is commonly used within a short period after the actual traumatic event to prevent possible negative effects of trauma.
This strategy often involves the preparation for possible complications, normalization, as well as catharsis-induced emotional processing. However, psychological debriefing is rarely effective in preventing psychopathy (Iribarren, Prolo, Neagos, & Chiappelli, 2005, p. 508).
PTSD can also be treated through the pharmacological approach, which involves the usage of antidepressants. It has been proven that the symptoms of PTSD can be effectively treated with sertraline (Iribarren, Prolo, Neagos, & Chiappelli, 2005, p. 508). Furthermore, this medication was the only one approved by the US Food and Drug Administration as medication suitable for PTSD treatment for Veterans.
Moving Beyond Trauma and Additional Considerations
Moving beyond trauma involves not only the psychotherapeutic or pharmacological treatment. Taking participation in community events such as various recovery movements, support groups, book clubs, and other workshops can elevate the negative impact of trauma. When recognizing that a person is not alone in experiencing posttraumatic stress disorder complications, it is much easier to cope and move beyond trauma.
Additional PTSD management considerations include family and couples therapy since this issue is not limited to one person; it affects his or her family and other close people. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programs such as yoga, meditation, and techniques for breathing can also be introduced into the management of posttraumatic stress disorder. According to the Kaplan Center (2016), the 2015 study on reducing PTSD effects among Veterans, participants of the mindfulness-based programs for stress reduction saw a significant decrease in the severity of their symptoms (para. 12).
The Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing technique is also widely used as a method of behavior management in PTSD patients and involves eye movements, sounds, and hand taps to interrupt the brain processing in cases of stress. Thus, their many methods for reducing the impact of posttraumatic stress disorder in patients that experienced a traumatic event in their lives. The most effective method has not been outlined since it is a combination of efforts and techniques that can lift the burden of the disorder.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Posttraumatic stress disorder. Web.
Ehlers, A., & Clark, D. (2010). A cognitive model of posttraumatic stress disorder. Behavior Research and Therapy, 38, 319-345.
Iribarren, J., Prolo, P., Neagos, N., & Chiapelli, F. (2005). Post-traumatic stress disorder: Evidence-based research for the third millennium. eCam, 2(4), 503-512.
McFarlane, A. (2010). The long-term costs of traumatic stress: intertwined physical and psychological consequences. World Psychiatry, 9, 3-10.
The Kaplan Center. (2016). Moving beyond trauma: healing therapies for PTSD. Web.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2013). PTSD: National Center for PTSD. Web.
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