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What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a psychological and emotional response to a traumatic event (Elzouki, 2012). There is a higher probability to develop PTSD if a person went through a disaster, emergency situation, or traumatic situation. However, it is difficult to diagnose PTSD due to several comorbidity issues.

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It is important to know more about the nature of PTSD. The absence of expert and accurate diagnosis can lead to frustrations when it comes to dealing with symptoms. In the aftermath of a traumatic event or disaster, it is imperative to reduce the impact of traumatic events. It is imperative to initiate a treatment program to help those suffering from PTSD.

What is PTSD?

The problem with PTSD became popular when war veterans came home after World War II. As a result, it was only in the latter part of the 20th century health care professionals were aware of the problem. Researchers are in agreement that this medical condition may have existed since ancient times.

It is a type of anxiety disorder that can occur after someone has been through a traumatic event. A traumatic event has been defined as: “…something horrible and scary that you see or that happens to you” and in the midst of the traumatic event, “…you think that your life or other’s lives are in danger” (Kazak, 2004, p.211).

Thus, anyone who has gone through a life-threatening event is prone to develop this type of mental illness (Elzouki, 2012). It has something to do with an encounter with an unpleasant event: “Experiencing, witnessing or confronting events that involve actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others” can lead to the traumatization of the individual (Kazak, 2004, p.212).

The risk factors or events that could lead to PTSD are listed as follows: 1) Combat or military exposure; 2) Child sexual or physical abuse; 3) Terrorist attacks; 4) Sexual or physical assault; 5) Serious accidents; and 6) Natural disasters such as hurricane and earthquake (Husain, Allwood & Bell, 2008, p.52). It is imperative to arrive at a correct diagnosis. The failure to do so can easily impede treatment (Husain, Allwood & Bell, 2008, p.53).

However it is easy to commit errors when it comes to dealing with PTSD due to the nature of the problem. For example, example clinical manifestations are varied, such as, substance abuse, hyper-arousal, irritability, and anger (Husain, Allwood & Bell, 2008). At the same time it is difficult for PTSD patients to acknowledge that they have problems and need help (Husain, Allwood, & Bell, 2008).

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Clinical manifestation includes re-experiencing symptoms. This also includes actions that are focused on the theme of the trauma, nightmares, and distress related to reminders of the traumatic event (Elzuoki, 2012). For example, soldiers with PTSD react negatively to sounds that resemble gunfire or explosions (Elzuoki, 2012).

Clinical manifestations also include flashbacks, as if the event has reoccurred in front of the patient. In addition, those who suffer from PTSD experience the following: 1) numbing and avoidance symptoms; 2) dissociation; 3) decreased interest in activities; and 4) the inability to imagine the future (Elzuoki, 2012).

Before treatment can be applied, it is important to pinpoint the symptoms. One way to accomplish this goal is to use a structured interview that would reveal the frequency and intensity of each symptom (Wilson, 2004). Mental health experts must be careful in their interpretation of data in order to prevent a misdiagnosis.


An effective treatment strategy falls under the category of psychotherapeutic. It is a modification of cognitive behavioral therapy that is tailor-made to address traumatic events (Wilson, 2004). This type of cognitive behavioral therapy includes psychoeducation. It focuses on behavioral and stress management. It also includes emotional regulation.

The chosen cognitive behavioral therapy strategy can be modified even further to involve the confrontation of feared stimuli (Wilson, 2004). It is accomplished through imagination or in person (Wilson, 2004). In other words, the patient has to undergo “repeated confrontation with the memories of the trauma, as well as the trauma-related situations that gives rise to unrealistic fears” (Wilson, p. 160)

It is important to point out that although there are several types of therapies that were developed to deal with PTSD, it is the cognitive behavior therapy that is proven to be the most effective. However, CBT for PTSD is a challenging treatment strategy. The therapist needs to convince patients to come face-to-face with their trauma memories (Zayfert, 2007).

It is a challenging process, because patients have tried for several years to avoid re-encountering traumatic events that happened to them a long time ago. Therapists must persuade them by explaining to PTSD sufferers that the task at hand will help them in the long run.

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However, it is also critical to point out that there is no single type or form of CBT that is superior to others. Therapists must study different ways to apply CBT strategies related to PTSD. One way to accomplish this goal is to study how effective CBT can be when done in a group setting.


Elzuoki, A. (2012). Textbook of clinical pediatrics. New York: Springer.

Husain, S., Allwood, M., & Bell, D. (2008). The relationship between PTSD symptoms and attention problems in children exposed to the Bosnian War. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 16(1), 52-62.

Kazak, A. (2004). Postraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms (PTSS) in families of adolescent childhood cancer survivors. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 29(3), 211-219.

Wilson, J. (2004). Treating psychological trauma and PTSD. New York: Guilford Press.

Zayfert, C. (2007). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for PTSD: A case formulation approach. New York: Guilford Press.

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