Handling PTSD

My dear readers and all of you who will one day join my medical-artistic corner,

Last time I gave a hint that I will write about some important-practical things regarding PTSD. Let me give you a short introduction about history and epidemiology of this condition.

PTSD has first time been described by soldiers who participated in American Civil war. Under the influence of psychodinamic theory it became known as “traumatic nervosis”. Later, after WW2 simmilar behavioural pattern with symptoms develped at those people who were imprisoned at the concentration camps; it became known as the “Syndrome of concentration camps”.

This disorder is a result of an extreme traumatic experience that is in relation to a certain person, less in relation to natural disaster. PTSD got included into the DSM list (or as many of you heard – the code for a medical diagnosis) in the year1952.

Epidemiologically observed, in order to obtain this disorder we have existing stressogenic situation that conditions the way how will our body system react on stressogenic stimulus. The most vulnerable gropus of people that could be prone to PTSD are hypersensitive persons, children and elder people. Social factors as perception of surrounding and treatment from society play a major role in apperance of the disorder.

How actually PTSD manifests itself?

The affected person had an experience that was outrageous and that was extremely unpleasnt for everyone

The affected person persistently experiences the traumatic experience in at least one of the stated ways:

  • Unpleasnt, repetitive and intense memories (children express them through the drawings)
  • Repetitive nightmares
  • Impression that the traumatic event is currently happening (hallucinations, illusions, flash backs)
  • Intense psychological suffering as a result tof exposure to events that symbolise or remind of traumatic event including the “anniversary trauma”.

The affected person attempts to avoid the stimulus that triggers trauma in at least 3 of the listed symptoms:

  • Avoidance of memories linked to traumatic experience
  • Avoidance of situation or activity that reminds of traumatic experience
  • Inability of recalling in memory important factors of traumatic experience
  • Feeling detachment from others
  • Limited spectrum for affects (for ex. inability for feeling loved)
  • Feelings of restricted abilities.

Permanent symptoms of enhanced alert (absent befor the trauma), in at least 2 of the listed symptoms:

  • Difficulties in falling asleep or to sleep through
  • Irritability or aggssiv outbreaks.
  • Worsened concentration
  • Reactions of excessive fear
  • Physiological reactions

This disorder lasts at least for 4 weeks, if it lasts not longer that 6 months it is acute disorder, in the case it laste longer than 6 months it is a chronical disorder. It is also importanti to give significance to Acute stres reaction (ASR) as it is a condition that lasts not more than 4 weeks. In this way we distinguish PTSD from ASR.

There are two types of responses to trauma; normal response and pathological response.

In normal response the patient grieves (fear, sadness, anger, fury), denies (rejection, denial,repression, partial remembrance), processing of trauma (confrotation with trauma acceptance, normal resocialisation without changes in mental health).

In pathological response the patient represses emotions (panic or numbness), escape into the addiction (drugs, alcohol), continuous undergoing of trauma, psychosomatic disorders (blood pressure, pulse, stomach ulcer…), changes in the character of the patient – personality disorders – deliquency.

At the end, how to help to a person who has PTSD?

  • In acute reaction to the stres, hospital treatment as a short crisis intervention is sometimes needed if the patient suffers from suicidal thoughts or shows agression towards others.
  • Most of the patients are treated in outpatient clinics.
  • Medicament treatment
  • Psychotherapy

It is important that we never forget the benefits from arts and sports as a very important part of rehabilitation process for these patients. By doing art one accquires better contentration, calms down, develops manual skills. In sports one decreases impact of stressogenic factors, lowers the level of stress hormone (Cortisole) especially Yoga, Pilates, Ballet and Tai Chi.

Be couraguous, supportive and amazing towards youself or your beloved ones who are coping with PTSD!



P.s. This wonderful black-white photo was taken by amazing and talented photogaphy enthusiast Ivo Turk, check out his talents at Deviantart.com.

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