Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Things You Should Know

Post traumatic stress disorder (ptsd) and brain injury

The Brain Injury Team often comes across clients or other individuals who have questions about Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For instance many wonder if it is possible to develop PTSD outside of war. The public perception of PTSD is that it is most often associated with war veterans that have experienced a terrifying event, though there are many other traumatic experiences that can lead to this distressing condition. However, anyone, of any age, is susceptible to PTSD. It can result from exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence (witnessed in person or directly experienced). PTSD can lead to significant social, occupational, and interpersonal dysfunction.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), a person may have any combination of three categories of symptoms.

1.    Re-experiencing symptoms: 
     -    flashbacks 
     -    bad dreams
     -    terrifying thoughts
2.    Avoidance symptoms: 
     -    feeling emotionally numb
     -    having trouble remembering the event
     -    avoiding places, events, objects that remind you of the experience.
     -    Feeling strong guilt, depression, or worry
3.    Hyperarousal Symptoms:
     -    easily startled
     -    feeling tense or on edge
     -    difficulty sleeping

The NIH explains that personality and cognitive factors (e.g. optimism) as well as social factors (e.g. support groups), play a role in how well a person will respond to a traumatic event. The NIH also points to the future possibility of being able to predict who will develop PTSD based on whether or not they have these characteristics. There are numerous elements that influence the severity and duration of PTSD-- namely, chronicity, impairment, comorbidity (co-existing disorders) and somatization (expressed pain due to unknown cause).

It is critical for a patient with PTSD to receive proper treatment. A 2011 article posted in the Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings reveals that exposure therapy has shown the most promise for developing PTSD interventions. This type of therapy safely exposes a patient to the trauma that they experienced through mental imagery, writing, or a visit to the area of the incident. Adequate intervention is pivotal for patients with PTSD to cope with their feelings.