Post Traumatic Stress- Causes and Symptoms

Posted by Pradeep Kumar Chadha on Wed, May 25, 2011  
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One of the most undiagnosed conditions in mental health is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder  commonly called PTSD.


Any event or incident that is life threatening to a person or a life threatening  incident that has been witnessed happening to others can cause symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  A life threatening event could be a mugging, an assault including rape, a road traffic accident, natural disasters or any event that brings a person to be afraid of their own life or the life of others. The element of threat  to life is important.


According to the diagnostic criteria in psychiatry, the symptoms usually appear during first six months of the event. Though experienced psychiatrists say that they can occur even many years after the event. Sometimes a threatening experience can bring up the memories and symptoms of a previous event, that the person had forgotten about. This is quite common in cases of sexual abuse.


This condition is characterized by nightmares, sleep disturbances due to nightmares, flashbacks of a threatening experience, anxiety, hypersensitivity to even slight noise and avoidance of the memory of the traumatic event.


Researches estimate that PTSD symptoms are present in 1% to 4% of the population at a given moment in time. But the symptoms can also fade or become absent after months and years after the event. Strange, though it may seem, in my experience, the effect of such events can stay with the person affecting their daily life without their knowledge or awareness. For them, the event took place a long time ago and it has no role in the present lfe. But when therapy is done for the event that may have taken place many years earlier, a person feels more relaxed with a consequent change in their perceptions about life in the present. This is experienced as a 'load' being 'lifted off the shoulders' as many a clients of mine have stated. 


Untreated PTSD can lead on to other mental illnesses including anxieities, phobias, panic attacks, depression, obsessions, addictions and also schizophrenia. 


PTSD is treated by psychiatrists by psychotropic drugs in the first instance. But long-term treatment is psychotherapy that involves imgery and desensitization.Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing or EMDR is a well known technique that is effective in this condition. Many times both medications and psychotherapy are provided together. Unfortunately, this condition is not only missed but is also untreated in most cases. This causes an increase in expense and also lowers the quality of life of the sufferer. 


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