Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSS) (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress can occur when a person has experienced a traumatic event in which there was an actual or perceived threat of death or injury to themselves or another. People with PTSD often re-live the traumatic event through distressing dreams, flashbacks, or by becoming agitated around anniversaries or other dates that might symbolize the event.
PTSD can occur following events such as flood or fire, war, imprisonment, assault, domestic abuse, or rape. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the U.S. certainly may have caused PTSD in some people who were involved, who witnessed the disaster, and who lost relatives and friends. Everyone experiencing these events surely experienced some kind of stress, but not all of these people developed PTSD. Humans are designed to handle stress and trauma – but when we are overwhelmed by traumatic events the stress and anxiety may stay "locked" in our nervous system.
Symptoms accompanying PTSD are often as follows:
- Reliving the event through dreams and/or flashbacks, including the bodily sensations that accompanied the event, such as intense fear, anxiety and distress, helplessness or horror.
- Avoidance of the event: the person may be unable to remember important aspects of the trauma, may feel detached or numb, may lack interest in normal activities, and may stay away from people, places and things that remind them of the event. They may also avoid talking about the event.
- The person may be angry or irritable, may have difficulty sleeping and concentrating, and may show an exaggerated startle response, as well as overall hypervigilance.
- The person may experience guilt at having survived the event, and may have a sense of doom about the future.
It is estimated that about ten percent of the U.S. population has or has had symptoms of PTSD. It can affect people at any age, and statistically more females than males suffer from it. For some, brief therapy and support is enough to help them recover. For others, the symptoms persist, sometimes for years. More serious illnesses can arise from PTSD if it goes untreated, such as clinical depression or drug dependency.
Help is available to those suffering from troubling reactions to trauma. There are a number of treatments available, usually focusing on anxiety and stress reduction. These include self-hypnosis, and relaxation therapy techniques. Behavioral psychotherapy has also proved helpful. The sufferer finds new ways to react to their memories, and finds it easier to talk about their trauma. Drug therapies, peer counseling and other group therapies have also been found effective.
A new and powerful technique called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR, has also been found useful in treating PTSD. A summary of the research in this area can be found at the EMDR Institute, Inc. Web site. This research substantiates a significant decrease in PTSS/PTSD symptoms with use of EMDR.