What is PTSD

JAN 09, 2021

PTSD - which was earlier known as combat neurosis or shell shock, stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. As the name suggests, it is an anxiety disorder that involves experiences of severe stress in the aftermath of significantly traumatic life experiences. People suffering from PTSD find themselves reliving trauma over and over again, long after it appears to have ended.

The disorder manifests through a long list of symptoms. The most common of these include: disturbing nightmares associated with the traumatic event, ‘flashbacks’ that make one feel like they are reliving the event, unpleasant and intrusive memories, and extreme distress. These symptoms in turn lead to high levels of arousal that cause problems such as inability to concentrate, restlessness, irritability and a tendency to be startled easily. PTSD may also result in symptoms of depression and panic attacks.

In addition to this, PTSD may also cause avoidance, which appears in many forms. Emotionally, it manifests as feelings of numbness and detachment. It may also result in memory disturbances that render one unable to remember key aspects of the trauma. In its more direct forms, it leads to avoidance of people, places and events that remind one of the traumatic event. Avoidance is one of the key mechanisms underlying a specific type of PTSD known as Dissociative PTSD. Herein, one feels detached from the trauma and experiences it as if they’re outside their own body.

The extreme psychological distress that is characteristic of the disorder makes it remarkably difficult to investigate its causes. However, it has been noted that social support in the aftermath of trauma can play a crucial role. The more support - especially emotional, that one receives from friends, family and society, the less likely that are to suffer from PTSD. Children have lower chances of developing PTSD than adults; however, the disorder can still manifest in children and adolescents. Certain structural and biochemical aspects of the brain have also found to be associated with PTSD. Furthermore, feelings of guilt and shame may also play an important role in predisposing one the disorder.

The trauma that PTSD refers to can range from war and experiences in the military, to accidents, natural disasters and assault. Sometimes, distressing medical conditions such as cancer and heart attack can also result in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Pregnancy related experiences such as a miscarriage or sometimes even normal childbirth, also runs the risk of PTSD. Different types of trauma pose different degrees of risk for developing PTSD, with the highest risk stemming from trauma associated with sexual assault.

Although there is still a significant amount of research that must be undertaken to fully understand PTSD, several modules of treating the disorder have been developed. These treatment options include both medication and therapy, and sometimes a combination of the two. Specifically, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy(CBT) has been proven to be helpful in several instances, to help those suffering from PTSD not only re-process their trauma, but also learn how to manage the intrusive thoughts and feelings that it elicits. If you, or anyone you know is suffering from PTSD, contact a clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist.