PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event causing psychological trauma. This event may involve the threat to oneself or to someone else, or to one’s own or someone else’s physical, sexual, or psychological integrity. The ability to cope is overwhelmed. Diagnostic symptoms for PTSD include re-experiencing the original trauma(s) through nightmares or flashbacks, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, and increased arousal – such as difficulty falling/staying asleep, hypervigilence and anger. Formal diagnostic criteria requires that the symptoms last more than one month and cause significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
It is also possible to experience some of the symptoms of PTSD without meeting criteria for the diagnosis. It is often beneficial to seek help for traumatic experiences even if they are less severe. If any of this sounds familiar, I encourage you to seek help.
PTSD may be caused by physiological or psychological trauma, oftentimes both. Possible sources of trauma include experiencing or witnessing childhood or adult physical, emotional or sexual abuse. In addition, experiencing or witnessing an event perceived as life threatening.
Indicators of PTSD:
- Recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions.
Note: in young children, repetitive play may occur in which themes or aspects of the trauma are expressed.
- Recurrent distressing dreams of the event.
Note: in children, there may be frightening dreams without recognizable content.
- Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes).
Note: in children, trauma-specific reenactment may occur.
- Intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.
- Physiologic reactivity upon exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Treatment
It has been learned that painful or traumatic experiences are stored in a different place in the brain than are pleasant or neutral ones. Normally we work through these negative experiences by talking about the trauma, dreaming about it, etc. and we are able to put it behind us.
However many traumatic experiences seem to be “stuck” in the brain. Even after years of talk therapy, the intensity of painful feelings about a particular trauma could remain the same without change. A recommended treatment for PTSD is Eye Movement and Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR). Some people feel that EMDR initiates information processing of these experiences so that distress is reduced.
The theory is that the bilateral stimulation in EMDR creates brain activity similar to REM (rapid eye movement) that we experience during sleep. This assists us in processing ideas and resolves conflicts. We are able to work through things. We still retain the memory but without the emotional pain and the feelings of smell, taste, etc. of the event.
A number of scientific studies have shown EMDR to be effective. I encourage you to check out these studies at //www.emdr.com.