What is post-traumatic stress disorder?

Stress disorderA post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a reaction delayed by a traumatic experience. It occurs frequently after serious events such as sexual abuse, natural disasters or bodily violence and can greatly limit the quality of life of the affected person.

People with post-traumatic stress disorder experience same traumatic event like in the form of memories or nightmares and tend to avoid similar situations. Other possible symptoms are irritability, difficulty concentrating, social isolation, fears, nervousness or depressions.

Not only people who have experienced a traumatic situation directly can get post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Also witnesses, who have experienced a very serious event, such as another person’s accident may develop post-traumatic stress disorder.

Treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), different possibilities are taken into account such as behavioral therapy or hypnotherapy. Medications can also contribute to the success of treatment.

What is the definition of post-traumatic stress disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a delayed (over time) and long-lasting reaction in response to at least one traumatic experience. Post-traumatic stress disorder is the set of symptoms that appear as a result of this traumatic event. It is a severe emotional reaction to extreme psychological trauma.

The traumatic event is usually related to a possible threat, for example, in the context of physical violence, natural disasters or wars. The duration of the traumatic situation is indifferent. Also people who were not directly threatened but witnessed what happened may develop a post-traumatic stress disorder. Those affected experience the traumatic situation again and again, for example, in the form of overwhelming memories or nightmares.

Incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder

There is a variety of information on the frequency of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is directly related to the degree of exposure to traumatic stress events, both natural (earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions) and man-made ones (wars, terrorist attacks, violent attacks, etc.). In all these conditions, people who are belonging to the affected groups may present post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in percentages of at least 15%.

A post-traumatic stress disorder comes especially after experiences such as sexual abuse, rape and war. It affects almost twice more women than men.


What are the causes of post-traumatic stress disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be due to different causes. But it always occurs as a delayed reaction to a very serious traumatic experience, such as in the following cases:

  • Sexual abuse or rape
  • Physical violence, torture or captivity
  • Armed conflicts
  • Terrorist attack
  • Natural disasters
  • Accidents
  • Traumatic diagnosis of a serious illness
  • Also eyewitnesses who are not directly involved in an event may subsequently develop a post-traumatic stress disorder

Not all people who have experienced an unusually traumatic situation subsequently suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder. Rather, there are other influences that also play a role, such as past traumatic experiences or genetic influences. Typically, they become ill rather than emotionally weak, but also people can emotionally develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Women suffer more frequently from post-traumatic stress disorder than men.


What are the symptoms of a post-traumatic stress disorder?

The symptoms of a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) usually appear with a delay of several weeks to several months or even years after the traumatic experience.

The affected person experiences the traumatic situation again and again, for example, with overwhelming thoughts. In addition, gaps may appear in memory. On the other hand, flashbacks can occur in which sudden images or frightful impressions of the event are suddenly remembered. In addition, nightmares and fears can manifest. Partial or total gaps in memory seriously affect people.

Symptoms and treatment

On the other hand, there are other characteristic symptoms of a post-traumatic stress disorder:

Symptoms of overexcitation: Discomfort such as insomnia, irritability, nervousness, fears and difficulties of concentration appear.

Symptoms of emotional stress: The affected person withdraws from social life and shows no interest in things that previously provided him with happiness. He is indifferent, discouraged and apathetic.

Avoidance behavior: The person avoids situations that might remind him of the trauma (stimuli) or that are related to the traumatic event.

People with a post-traumatic stress disorder are often tired and exhausted. Sometimes they develop depressions or ideas of suicide. Other possible symptoms are feelings of estrangement and physical discomfort without organic cause (somatization).

In children, a post-traumatic stress disorder can also be perceived by behaviors to attract attention. Thus, it can adopt an aggressive attitude or follow patterns in which the child repeats again and again the traumatic situation.


How is post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosed?

For people with a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a timely diagnosis is very important. Earlier treatment takes place, the earlier discomfort can be prevented from becoming chronic.

Suspicion of post-traumatic stress disorder is usually confirmed with symptoms. In addition, doctor will find out if the affected person has been involved in or has observed a traumatic event. Psychological tests can help to ensure the diagnosis. A physical-based disease can be ruled out with a complete examination.

Contrary to what happens in an acute traumatic reaction, whose symptoms are perceived directly or are related to a traumatic event that has happened very recently and usually decrease after a few days. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) appears with a delay that can vary from a few weeks to even years. The discomfort is maintained for even longer.


How to treat post-traumatic stress disorder?

Treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) should be started as soon as possible after diagnosis. In the first place, the protection of the affected person must be guaranteed before another possible effect of the trauma. You should then consult with an experienced therapist as soon as possible.

As treatment is contemplated, a psychotherapy focused on the conflict in which the trauma is worked if necessary. Only the trauma should be worked if affected person is sufficiently stable and no other influence will be produced by the trauma. Here, it is very important to approach the affected person carefully and under an experienced direction. Depending on the severity of the disease, ambulatory or clinical treatment may be chosen.

Other treatments applied in the context of a PTSD are behavioral therapy, hypnotherapy, relaxation techniques or also EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) in which traumatic situation is worked with the help of specific stimulation, for example with precise eye movements.

If discomfort persists for a prolonged period, sufferer may also receive antidepressants with substances, such as mirtazapine, paroxetine or citalopram. In case of sleep disorders help substances like zolpidem or lormetazepam. In special self-help groups, those affected can exchange experiences about PTSD and support each other. Do not take any medication without consulting your doctor!

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