Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
This is an emotive
label and has now entered our everyday language, primarily through
prompting from the media. Consequently, it seems important to get
beyond the label, in order to provide an understanding of the symptoms
person must have been exposed to an exceptionally traumatic and
frightening event that caused intense fear, helplessness or horror.
As a result they can experience notable changes to either or both
their personality and lifestyle. The diagnosis initially arose following
the Vietnam war to describe a melee of symptoms commonly experienced
by those who had been in traumatic military combat. However, it
has been extended to meet other similar distressing incidents such
as a violent personal assault of a physical or sexual nature, a
severe road traffic accident or being diagnosed with a life-threatening
are the symptoms?
of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder tend to fall into four main areas.
of the event, such as through flashbacks or nightmares;
of either thoughts or situations associated with reminders of the
3. Numbing type
symptoms which can affect the person’s interest in their life
or closeness of relationships;
arousal symptoms such as sleep problems, irritability, concentration
problems, jumpiness and hyper-awareness of potential dangers.
may experience the trauma somewhat differently to adults, for example,
through repetitive play, with the theme of recurring accidents.
They may begin to suffer upsetting dreams such as with the theme
of monsters and the like, rather than the trauma per se. There is
often some regression in their level of development. Otherwise,
similar symptoms to those experienced in adulthood are present.
long does it last?
who are exposed to a traumatic event will experience some or all
of these symptoms but usually they decrease within a few weeks.
However, in terms of a diagnosis of PTSD, symptoms are intense for
at least one month and, usually, much longer. Indeed cases of chronic
PTSD can continue for years without any marked signs of improvement.
The duration of PTSD can vary enormously and this is partly dependent
on a range of factors such as the severity of the trauma, any treatment
received and the nature of the person’s psychological makeup
prior to the event.
is the treatment?
approaches to the treatment of PTSD utilise CBT techniques, focusing
upon assisting the person to adjust to the nature of the trauma
and address the specific presenting symptoms, such as avoidance
and numbing. In addition, more recent techniques include the use
of EMDR therapy, which has been found particularly helpful in alleviating
symptoms such as flashbacks and nightmares. With younger children,
play therapy is often introduced.