Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

The mind prefers to remember very positive and very negative events. Unless your lunch today was exceptional, chances are you won’t remember what you ate a few weeks from now. If you have been exposed to very upsetting events, your mind will keep these memories close to the surface of your consciousness – for your protection.  If you nearly rear ended another vehicle in traffic on your way home tonight, chances are you will drive more carefully to work tomorrow.  This is a good thing!                                           

However, if you’ve been exposed to an event or a series of events that result in true mind boggling terror you may suffer from many of the following symptoms.

Symptoms of PTSD are generally of three types: 

Intrusive 

  • Dissociative states (feeling disconnected from reality)

  • Flashbacks 

  • Intrusive emotions and memories 

  • Nightmares and night terrors 

Avoidant 

  • Avoiding emotions 

  • Avoiding relationships 

  • Avoiding responsibility for others 

  • Avoiding situations that remind you of the traumatic event(s)

Hyperarousal 

  • Exaggerated startle reaction (jump in response to loud noises)

  • Explosive outbursts 

  • Extreme vigilance 

  • Irritability 

  • Panic symptoms 

  • Sleep disturbance 

Intrusive memories and emotions interfere with normal thought processes and social interaction. Flashbacks feature auditory and visual hallucinations. For example, the sounds and images of combat often comprise the content of flashbacks experienced by military veterans. Flashbacks can be triggered by ordinary stimuli such as a low-flying airplane or a loud noise; anything that brings to mind an aspect of the event.  Nightmares and night terrors also feature aspects of the traumatic event. 

Dissociative symptoms include psychic numbing, depersonalization, and amnesia. People with PTSD commonly avoid stimuli and situations that remind them of the traumatic event because they trigger symptoms. 

People experiencing hyperarousal symptoms are always on the alert for danger or threat and are easily startled. 

Complications 

Complications develop in people with chronic PTSD and delayed onset PTSD. These include the following: 

  • Alcohol and drug abuse or dependence 

  • Chronic anxiety 

  • Depression and increased risk for suicide 

  • Divorce and separation 

  • Guilt 

  • Low self-esteem 

  • Panic attacks 

  • Phobias 

  • Unemployment 

In 1988, it was estimated that 40% of Vietnam veterans had problems with drug abuse, and almost one-half of these veterans had been divorced at least once.  Phobias of objects, situations, or environments that remind the person of the event often develop as complications of PTSD.  Panic attacks can be triggered by stimuli reminiscent of the event. People with chronic PTSD and complications often become unemployed because severe symptoms interfere with their ability to perform their jobs and function socially in the workplace. 

Internet Resources

PTSD

PTSD Information Center

On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace

Recommended Books

 

 


 

 

 

The Promised
Land always
lies on the
other side of a
Wilderness
Henry Ellis