Custom «Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder» Essay Paper Sample
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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) implies a severe mental condition that occurs as a result of a single or multiple traumatic situations such as participation in military operations, severe physical injury, sexual violence, or the threat of death. The PTSD is characterized by a group of specific symptoms such as psychopathological experiences, loss of memory related to the traumatic events, and a high level of anxiety that persists for more than a month after the trauma. The traumatic effects can be caused by military actions, natural disasters, terrorist acts (such as hostage-taking, rape, torture), as well as a long and severe illness or death of the loved ones. Thus, patients with post-traumatic stress disorder experience the sense of helplessness and intense fear.
The PTSD manifests in a repetitive and obsessive replay of the traumatic events in the mind. The patient’s stress is often very intense and sometimes even causes suicidal thoughts with a view to stopping the attack. It is also characterized by recurring nightmares and involuntary memories. The patient avoids thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma, as well as activities, places, or people that trigger those memories. Psychogenic amnesia is quite typical as the patient is not able to reproduce the traumatic events in the memory in detail. There is also constant vigilance and state of a constant expectation of threat. The condition is often complicated by physical disorders and diseases mainly as the part of the nervous, cardiovascular, digestive, and endocrine systems.
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Taking into account the above mentioned fact, the paper is aimed at providing the overview of post-traumatic stress disorder among school age children and adults. In fact, it will consider identification, symptomology, and effective treatment strategies of the disorder.
The American Psychiatric Association (2013) states that the post-traumatic syndrome means a serious disorder of the human psyche caused by the occurrence of strong stress. Originally, the human psyche is able to take a lot of stress. An individual person can adjust and adapt to various changes in life or in the environment. However, sudden changes, injuries, or mental distress can lead to a sustained stress, which eventually develops into the syndrome. In the presence of a reason to panic, the brain of a healthy person will lead to the occurrence of various body responses, including the release of adrenaline. The heartbeat of the person increases and he/she feels a strong desire to fight or flee. When the danger passes, the symptoms disappear with only the unpleasant memory remaining. For example, a woman who was once attacked in a noisy bar may in a few weeks feel fear when she hears the clink of glasses. However, Guina, Rossetter, DeRhodes, Nahhas, and Welton (2015) state that over time the positive association of sound and partying with friends outweigh the negative emotions. It means that the more people receive memories with no connection to the stress, the greater the probability of the decay of fear. However, in case such mechanism fails, the PTSD develops. It increases the risk of various health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, depression, and addictions. People with the PTSD are much more likely to be unemployed, have marital problems, become parents during the adolescence, etc. In addition, they can suffer from the misunderstanding of the surrounding people. Nevertheless, the PTSD is fundamentally different from most psychiatric disorders. It can be modeled in other mammals as they experience fear and exhibit the same way of behavior and patterns as people. According to a psychiatrist from the Medical Center of New York University, Charles Marmar, post-traumatic stress syndrome can be the first mental disorder in the way to discover the connection between the mind and the brain.
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Bisson, Cosgrove, Lewis, and Robert (2015) claim that traumatic situations that can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) include:
- A personal experience of a disaster caused by the death of the loved ones;
- Violence in the family against a child or a woman;
- Sexual violence;
- Involvement into military operations associated with the risk to life, acts of terrorism;
- A catastrophic situation or accident, which could lead to death;
- A severe physical injury.
The post-traumatic syndrome (PTSD) as a consequence of a severe trauma implies not only physical, but mostly mental state of the individual, which requires both medical and psychotherapeutic treatment. The psychology of post-traumatic stress is now the current trend in medicine and psychology. Various studies, research papers, articles, seminars, and trainings are dedicated to the further research and development of the efficient PTSD treatment. In fact, most studies indicate that the post-traumatic stress begins with the diagnosis and, consequently, leads to the description of symptoms of the mental disorder.
Typically, post-traumatic stress disorder is characterized by three groups of symptoms:
- Constantly recurring experiences of stressful events;
- Rejection of the reality;
- The state of arousal, alertness, and aggression.
Group 1: constantly recurring experiences of stressful events. It implies the memories that a person cannot control. Such memories can emerge at any time so that everything that happens in the reality here and now goes by the wayside. According to Berger et al. (2009), anything can serve as a trigger of the stressful memories, i.e. sounds, smells, speaker’s position, furniture placement, etc. After the experienced trauma, the stress state manifests itself in nightmares. Due to the inability control dreams, nightmares can result in the development of a fear of sleep. In fact, insomnia is one of the most common signs of post-traumatic syndrome. In addition, constantly recurring experiences of stressful events can result in the hallucinogenic experience, i.e. uncontrolled and unconscious emotions that are characterized by precision and special clarity. Thus, the traumatic experiences may result in the complete rejection of the reality, i.e. a regularly return to the post-traumatic guilt or even suicidal thoughts.
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Group 2: rejection of the reality. These symptoms include the doldrums as well as indifference to what is happening in the outside world. In addition, it can be manifested in the emotional coldness, i.e. the person is not capable of experiencing positive or joyful emotions. Love and compassion are not available for the person in the PTSD state.
The consequences of trauma can also lead to the situation when the patient does not want to maintain friendly relations, see relatives, or create new relationships. Alienation from the society is one of the clearest symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as the element of the reality rejection.
Group 3: alertness and aggression. In the state of constant stress, the person feels insecure and often expects repetition of the occurred events. Thus, it is reflected in alertness and ability for the immediate rebuff. Hoskins et al. (2015) indicate that anything that reminds of the trauma can cause violent or inadequate reactions. For example, after the loud sound reminiscent of a shot, the person rushes to the floor. In addition, it can be manifested in aggressiveness. When any threat (real or imaginary) is present, people prefer just to fight back by using brute force.
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The above symptoms present a quite detailed list, but it should be mentioned that the person experiencing post-traumatic state does not have to possess all of these symptoms. In fact, the psychological trauma entails individual emotional responses that can be individually expressed in any of these symptoms.
Haagen, Smid, Knipscheer, and Kleber (2015) claim that the post-traumatic stress and disorder are not limited to adult population only. Children are very vulnerable to the PTSD as the child's psyche acutely perceives situations on the brink of life and death. The PTSD in children can occur for different reasons, i.e. after being separated from their parents or their loss, after experiencing events relating to the injury, after witnessing a sustained stress in the family, from the lack of understanding between parents, and due to violence. Reasons that entail development of post-traumatic stress disorder can occur in school life, i.e. being caused by unfriendly relations or misunderstandings between classmates and teachers. Reasons that can cause stress among children are more numerous than among the adults.
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Carlstedt (2009) indicates that children with the PTSD can have the following symptoms:
- A constant return to the situation that caused stress. For example, if a child experiences a mental disorder after fracture, it can always come back to this topic in conversations and even games.
- Similarly to adults, children suffer from sleep disorders, i.e. they are unable or afraid to sleep and suffer from nightmares in which they again find themselves in a critical event.
- Zoladz (2013) indicates that another common symptom includes apathy to everything that is happening around. Indifference, carelessness, and distraction in these children indicate that the child is removed from the outside world.
- The opposite condition is manifested in aggression, anger, and irritability. Children with the PTSD can very rapidly react to trivial requests or orders, as well as behave inappropriately in normal situations.
Tips to Deal with the PTSD
The main manifestations of the PTSD imply the sense of loneliness and helplessness. Thus, the disorder treatment is aimed at restoring confidence and establishing relationships with others. Such goals can be achieved through individual work with a therapist or through the group therapy. Panic attacks and other specific manifestations of the PTSD can be successfully overcome with the help of behavioral therapy, including behavioral desensitization (restoration of a normal mental condition) and learning of relaxation techniques. In the treatment of sleep disorders, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive symptoms, effectiveness of antidepressants and minor tranquilizers has been proven. In addition, awareness of the success of the treatment subjectively perceived as a softening of symptoms helps the patient to regain the proactive state of mind.
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Hetrick, Purcell, Garner, and Parslow (2009) state that for a person suffering from the PTSD it is extremely important to gain the sense of security, experience support of relatives and friends, and obtain confidence that the problems are taken seriously. In the treatment of the PTSD, psychotherapy is a very effective tool of treatment. The cognitive therapy helps the victim to achieve awareness about the severity of the transferred stress, as well as its efficient treatment. Recovery of patients who survived the severe and prolonged stress can last for years, while stressful situations or reminders about their experiences may provoke relapses of the disorders even many years after the apparent deliverance from the PTSD.
Treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder is usually based on the following phases/steps:
- Immediate initiation of treatment after a psychological trauma to prevent development of chronic forms of the PTSD;
- A comprehensive long-term treatment, which includes pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy. The combination of treatment with antidepressants, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, beta-blockers, antipsychotics, etc. brings more positive results and significantly shortens the recovery period (Zoladz, 2013).
During the initial period, when there is the need in the specialized care for patients who have suffered from stress, the psychopharmacological treatment can be appointed. In most cases, it is based on tranquilizers or antidepressants in low doses used to normalize sleep and assure the emotional stress reduction. Among the antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are preferred for both adults and children, as well as for adolescents.
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Appointment of tranquilizers is symptomatic. They are used to quickly reduce the severity of anxiety and phobic symptoms. Due to the fact that the long-term use of tranquilizers may cause dependence, their use should not continue for more than 3 weeks. If necessary, patients are prescribed antipsychotic drugs. It is advisable to use neuroleptics, which have balanced antipsychotic actions.
If there is resistance to treatment, the expedient assignment of atypical antipsychotics is proposed. The appointment of nootropics in the treatment of patients with the PTSD is recommended due to their positive influence on the neurometabolism processes. Typically, beta-blockers are used in combination with antidepressants.
The most common methods of psychotherapy in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder include:
- Behavioral therapy;
- Cognitive or cognitive-behavioral therapy;
- Psychodynamic therapy.
In addition, the following types of psychotherapy can be used:
- Individual psychotherapy. It helps the patient to realize the true nature of the problem and solve internal conflicts and life crises. It consists of six components:
1) Correction of misconceptions about the stress response, which occur most frequently;
2) Provision of patients with information on the general nature of the stress response;
3) Focus on the role of excessive stress in the development of the disorder;
4) Development of the patient's ability to recognize symptoms of the stress reaction and characteristic symptoms of the PTSD;
5) Development of the patient's ability to conduct self-analysis to identify specific stressors;
6) Informing of the patient about his/her active role in the treatment of excessive stress.
- Group psychotherapy. It helps the patient to cope with feelings of guilt, helplessness, powerlessness, emotional alienation, irritability, and anger and find the lost sense of control over others, avoiding the state of helplessness and powerlessness;
- Family therapy. It provides the family with information about clinical signs of the PTSD, experiences and feelings of the patient, principles of behavior of relatives in this situation, as well as about the duration of treatment of the disorder and the possible effect. Psychotherapy sessions can also be conducted with close relatives of the PTSD patients to help them deal with the issue.
- Marital therapy. Its main task is to help spouses to adapt to changes that have occurred in their life after the experience of the stress.
The Developmental Stages
Regardless of the reasons of post-traumatic stress in children, adolescents, or adults, timely care and treatment are supposed to be the essential element to effectively help the patient cope with this condition. The initial stage of therapy of children and adults often implies a detailed testing aimed at studying causes and factors that have led to the occurrence of post-traumatic stress disorder. After this, the treatment regime is developed.
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The common method of treatment envisions implementation of the cognitive-behavioral therapy (Hoskins et al., 2015). This means that the patient should:
- Understand the impact of personal thoughts on mood and behavior;
- Be able not only to identify negative thoughts, but also to control them because of their effect on the general state;
- Have the opportunity to replace existing phobias and fears based on irrational and unexplainable experiences with rational and logical explanations.
Many researchers say that it is impossible to get rid of post-traumatic stress disorder once and for all. For example, soldiers can suffer from the PTSD for the whole life. Nevertheless, treatment of this disorder is necessary as it will help normalize the life of the injured person and return the ability to love and enjoy the life.
Additional recovery methods of psychotherapy imply the usage of hypnosis (suggestion) techniques; auto-training (self-hypnosis); relaxation techniques (breathing exercises, eye movement techniques, etc.); and treatment by means of the fine arts. In fact, a lot of experts believe that the fine arts have the positive effect on the PTSD treatment due to the fact that patients get rid of their fears by portraying them on paper. One of the specific signs of social maladjustment of the PTSD patients is the absence of any plans for the future. Therefore, the final stage of the PTSD treatment includes provision of the psychological advice for creating visions of the future through the discussion of basic life orientation, selection of immediate objectives, and development of methods for their implementation. It should be noted that after the final stage, many patients continue visiting psychotherapy groups for patients with the PTSD in order to consolidate results of treatment and provide help to fellow sufferers.
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The PTSD often occurs after experiencing repeated injuries or stressful situations. The probability of occurrence of the syndrome is higher if the person who causes the injury is known to the victim. Trauma experienced in early childhood, when the brain actively learns and determines what it should be afraid of, makes people more vulnerable to the PTSD later in life. Children who are mistreated in the family are at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder. Development of the PTSD affects what happens after the traumatic event so that support of surrounding people becomes crucial for the efficient treatment. The present paper has provided the overview of post-traumatic stress disorder among school age children and adults, as well as identifying symptomology and effective treatment strategies of the disorder.