Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental illness characterized by feelings of intense anxiety or rage due to the individual being “triggered” by an event which in some way resembles a traumatic event they experienced in the past. This disorder is often found in people who have served in the military. The amount of gore and death that 18 and 19 year old’s are subjected to during war is more than enough to permanently damage their cognition.
Post-traumatic stress disorder does not only affect veterans. This illness can also develop in anyone who has experienced a single or series of traumatic events, such as sexual abuse, physical abuse, verbal abuse, etc. For instance, a woman who is beaten frequently by her husband may eventually develop post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of her traumatic abuse. Children who are abused may also be at risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder as well.
People who have been physically assaulted may also have a higher chance of developing this illness as compared to those who endured verbal abuse or a death in the family, for example.
However, just because these individuals may not develop full blown post-traumatic stress disorder, they may still experience some of the symptoms associated with it. As is the case with all mental illnesses, it is not all or nothing. People typically reside on a spectrum of severity as it relates to the specific symptoms of any given disorder, from no apparent symptoms to severe symptoms.
Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
People suffering from this disorder can expect to experience anxiety varying from mild to extremely intense. The amount of anxiety they experience will vary and will depend on the event that triggered their symptoms. When they are triggered, they may go from feeling calm and content to becoming extremely enraged or terrified instantly.
For example, a soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder may become triggered by things such as loud noises or the depiction of certain areas. They may be off duty in a coffee shop near their home and then hear a plate fall and break in the kitchen. This event may make the soldier “snap” and instantly enter into “fight or flight” mode.
When in this frame of mind, the soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder may engage in violence or act irrational as their is likely nothing to actually fear. However, to them, the sound of the plate breaking on the floor may remind them of gunshots or glass breaking from gunshots. This may subconsciously affect them which forces them to react as if they were actually engaging in war or combat.
Below, you will see some more common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder:
- Intense anxiety or anger when triggered by an event
- Difficulty with coping in normal society
- Unable to cope with very strong emotions
- Is triggered by things that are not actually threatening
- Flashbacks of traumatic events may be extremely painful
- Avoiding situations which may trigger them
- Difficulty maintaining relationships
- Being easily startled or frightened
- Angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
- Being overly concerned with danger
- Nightmares involving their traumatic event
Causes of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
There is no known cause of this disorder. However, genetics and one’s environment are likely to play very significant roles. For instance, someone who has a family history of mental illness, especially anxiety disorders, may also have a higher chance of developing post-traumatic stress disorder. This has to do with them having a higher chance of being genetically predisposed to developing mental illness.
If someone has a genetic predisposition to develop mental illness, then all they may need to develop post-traumatic stress disorder is a very traumatic event. This disorder, unlike many others, may rely much more heavily on the “environmental” aspects of developing mental illness as opposed to the “genetic” aspects. This may be due to the fact that this disorder can only develop when the individual has experienced a very intrusive traumatic event. In other words, without environmental factors (i.e. traumatic events), this disorder simply cannot develop.
There is an overwhelming consensus among most mental health professionals that both genetics and one’s environment play very significant roles in the development of any given mental disorder. This is likely to be the case for post-traumatic stress disorder as well. Taking a look at your family history, as well as what type of traumatic events you’ve had in your life may shed some light as to whether you may or may not be at risk for developing this condition.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Treatment
There is no form of treatment that is specifically designed to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. However, there are many forms of treatment that can treat the many symptoms associated with this condition. Among those forms of treatment are psychotherapy and psychiatric medication. The exact form of treatment that will best suit you will greatly depend on the specific symptoms that you are experiencing.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
CBT may be able to help someone suffering from this condition by allowing them to better understand why they think the way they do about their traumatic event and how to more productively perceive the event, among many other things. CBT is a very common form of treatment for people suffering from anxiety disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), among many others.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is a form of treatment that combines exposure therapy with a series of guided eye movements that can help someone suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder to process their traumatic memories and alter the way they react to them.
Exposure therapy is another very common form of treatment that is often used for people suffering from anxiety disorders, such as OCD and specific phobias. It works by carefully exposing the patient to that which they fear in an attempt to desensitize them from their fear. If implemented correctly, it may be able to help treat some of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Anti-anxiety medication and/or anti-depressants may be able to help relieve some of the symptoms associated with this condition. However, merely taking medication alone may not be enough to truly improve this condition in the long term. If you have post-traumatic stress disorder or if you are suffering from some of the symptoms outlined in this article, then you should talk to your doctor before taking any medication.