Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental condition that originates from experiencing terrifying events and getting haunted by them long after they happened (Kinchin, 2005). It is characterized by symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, panic attacks, and recurrent thoughts about the event (Kato, Kawata, &Pitman, 2006). The disorder occurs mainly in people who experience difficulties adjusting or normalizing their lives after they witness or experience a traumatic experience. Examples of experiences that cause PTSD include grisly road accidents, military combat, terrorist attacks, and violent physical or sexual assault.
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Events that may trigger PTSD
PTSD is triggered mainly by traumatic or horrific events that victims find difficult to overcome or clear from their minds. Examples of these events include serious road accidents, terrorist attacks, kidnapping, natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes, military conflict, war, physical and sexual assault, armed robbery, and death (Kinchin, 2005). Other events that trigger the condition include child neglect, experiencing domestic violence, witnessing violent deaths, and witnessing events such as violence, war, and accidents. Finally, some people develop PTSD when they are diagnosed with certain diseases such as cancer (Yehuda, 2008). These events create thoughts and emotions in the minds of victims that they are unable to eliminate or deal with.
Clinical manifestations of PTSD
There are several clinical manifestations of PTSD. They include insomnia, flashbacks, nightmares, bad memories of the event, anger and irritability, panic attacks, and depression (Kato et al., 2006). Physical manifestations include constant headaches and migraines, body aches, back pain, nausea, excessive sweating, and stomach upsets (Yehuda, 2008). Victims lose interest in many things they used to enjoy and experience feelings of emotional numbness. Avoidance is a common symptom of PTSD and involves the avoidance of places, thoughts, feelings, or situations that remind them of the traumatic events they witnessed or experienced (Kato et al., 2006). Victims also have difficulty remembering certain aspects of the events and feel intense distress whenever memories of the traumatic events resurface. Victims of PTSD experience difficulties concentrating, sleeping, or controlling their emotions at certain times (Kato et al., 2006). For instance, they exhibit high irritability and show outbursts of anger often. Finally, they are easily startled and could be hypervigilant at times. The feelings of hopelessness, alienation, betrayal, mistrust, guilt, shame, and anger usually lead to depression (Yehuda, 2008).
Treatment and therapies
Treatment remedies for PTSD include psychological treatment (cognitive-psychotherapy) and medication. Examples of psychotherapy approaches include cognitive-behavioral therapy, family therapy, exposure therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) (Williams, 2009). Cognitive-behavioral therapy involves the identification and exposure of thoughts, feelings, and emotions that bring back memories of the traumatic event (Yehuda, 2008). In addition, it involves identifying thoughts that make victims upset whenever they recall the event. Cognitive therapy helps victims to take control of their thinking patterns to eliminate thoughts that keep them stuck in unfavorable past events (Williams, 2009). It aims to replace unfavorable thoughts with thoughts that represent a positive and more balanced interpretation of the event. Exposure therapy involves the use of technology and virtual reality to expose victims to simulations of similar traumatic events. This exposure allows them to deal with the events effectively by replacing their old perceptions and thoughts with new ones (Williams, 2009). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing help victims to change their ways of reacting to memories of traumatic events. This approach combines certain eye movements with exposure therapy. Common medications used to treat PTSD include antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. Antidepressants help to alleviate symptoms such as insomnia, concentration difficulties, depression, and anxiety (Williams, 2009). Prozac and Zolosoft are among the commonly prescribed antidepressants. Anti-anxiety medications alleviate symptoms such as stress and anxiety and help individuals deal with the pain of memories.
Professional approach on a plan of care
Nurses are required to take a professional approach when implementing a plan of care for the treatment of PTSD. Before creating a plan of care, nurses need to conduct an extensive and thorough assessment of a patient’s symptoms to ensure that the type of treatment method chosen is the most appropriate (Kato et al., 2006). In many cases, nurses conduct an initial assessment and afterward refer their patients to mental health specialists for more detailed assessments. Assessment and diagnosis are very important because it is common for healthcare practitioners to make the wrong diagnosis (Yehuda, 2008). Symptoms of PTSD are also caused by other diseases and conditions. The type of treatment method used should depend on the individual needs of the patient (Yehuda, 2008). This should be guided by the symptoms they exhibit and the severity of the condition. Finally, nurses should adhere to the code of ethics of the nursing profession while treating their patients (Yehuda, 2008). This is particularly important because a patient has the right to choose the treatment method they like.
PTSD is a mental condition that is caused by the effects of traumatic events witnessed or experienced in the past. Its symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, sleeping problems, depression, hopelessness, avoidance of people and activities, guilt, and body aches. Treatment remedies include psychotherapy and medication. Nurses need to conduct a thorough assessment to ensure that the diagnosis made is correct and does not compromise a patient’s plan of care.
Kato, N., Kawata, M., &Pitman, R. (2006). PTSD: Brain Mechanisms and Clinical Complications. New York, NY: Springer.
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Kinchin, D. (2005). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: The invisible Injury. New York, NY: Success Unlimited.
Williams, M. B. (2009). The PTSD Workbook: Simple, Effective techniques for Overcoming Traumatic Stress Symptoms. New York, NY: ReadHowYouWant.com.
Yehuda, R. (2008). Treating Trauma Survivors with PTSD. New York, NY: American Psychiatric Publishers.