“PTSD is a whole-body tragedy, an integral human event of enormous proportions with massive repercussions.” (Banitt, 2012) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has been known to occur when an individual is exposed to a life threatening event such as rape, domestic violence, child abuse, natural disaster, terrorist attack, or combat exposure. PTSD has affected thousands of people including children and can be difficult to diagnose. Military personnel working in combat situations are particularly at risk. According to statistics collected by the Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs (2007) nearly 30 percent of men and women who have spent time in war zones will experience PTSD. In this paper we will discuss causations of PTSD, treatments available, and future research possibilities.
The causes of PTSD are not well known or understood and not everyone who is faced with a violent event will result with PTSD. The disorder is brought on by the trauma, and the causes are correlated with the brain and the underlying risk factors that may have been present prior to the traumatic experience. Any traumatic event can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder. Fear conditioning of the brain can also cause an individual to display symptoms of PTSD. “Fear conditioning is where the person learns to predict traumas and the predicted traumas cause parts of the brain to activate.” (Bryant, 2011) It is possible for some people to carry predisposed risk factors that can result in PTSD, such as exposure to trauma as a child, depression, family history of PTSD, and gender. According to the Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs (2007) women are twice as likely as men to develop signs of PTSD. Many factors come into play when an individual suffers from this disorder. The risk factors as reported by the National Institute of Mental Health (2014) include:
- Experiencing long term trauma
- Seeing people hurt or killed
- Having little or no social support after a traumatic event
- Dealing with added stress after the experience
Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder can disrupt an individual’s life and negatively affect one’s performance at work, personal relationships, and their health.
Once diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder it is imperative to receive the proper treatment in order to gain control of your life. Your doctor may suggest undergoing psychotherapy treatments paired with medication. Psychotherapy helps patients to address the suffered symptoms and teach individuals how to cope with their PTSD symptoms. There are three types of psychotherapy; also referred to as talk therapy that are used to treat PTSD in children and adults alike. Cognitive therapy is considered the most effective form of psychotherapy. It addresses ways of thinking that may be inhibiting the individual from coping and causes the symptoms to worsen. During therapy the therapist will guide the client to identify thoughts that cause the individual to feel afraid or upset and replace them with more affirming emotions. Exposure therapy allows the client to face their individual fears in a safe environment. Techniques used during exposure therapy include repeatedly talking about the trauma event and a virtual reality program that allow the client to re-enter the scene of the traumatizing event. Another form of therapy that has brought up a lot of controversy is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. James & Gilliland (2013) describe this technique as a basic way of recreating the scene or expressed emotions from the scene of the traumatic event while the client follows the therapist’s finger with their eyes as it is moved back and forth with rapid motion. These forms of therapy are often combined with medications that help reduce depression and anxiety and can help improve sleep and concentration.
According to researchers, medicinal marijuana may be an effective drug to remedy symptoms of PTSD such as; flashbacks, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. Monteiro (2014) a news reporter for The Arbitrage Magazine reports a study by Suzanne Sisely that is awaiting governmental approval that can change treatment of PTSD in the future. Through this study she will follow the effects of marijuana on Veterans suffering from the illness. “Participants of the study will smoke or vaporize the marijuana in different amounts, specifically five different amounts, ranging from a simple placebo to twelve percent.” (Monteiro, 2014) Currently there are only six states that list PTSD as an illness that qualifies to be treated with cannabis. With approval of the DEA Sisely is hoping to change that for PTSD sufferers.
PTSD has shown to be a very complex illness to diagnose. Individuals that suffer from PTSD may suffer months even years of repeat trauma without the proper treatment. “Trauma destroys the fabric of time. In normal time you move from one moment to the next, sunrise to sunset, birth to death. After trauma, you may move in circles, find yourself being sucked backwards into an eddy or bouncing like a rubber ball from now to then to back again. … In the traumatic universe the basic laws of matter are suspended.” (Morris, 2015)
Through therapy and medications a licensed physician can guide the individual through the traumatic event and emotions and define coping strategies to work through the effects of PTSD.
Banitt, S. (2012). The trauma tool kit: Healing PTSD from the inside out. Wheaton, Ill.: Quest Books.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.(2007). Retrieved July 5, 2015, from The Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs http://www.ptsd.ne.gov/what-is-ptsd.html
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). (2014, September 12). Retrieved July 4, 2015, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml
Bryant, R. (2011, September 1). Post-traumatic stress disorder vs traumatic brain injury. Retrieved July 5, 2015.
Monteiro, M. (2014). Marijuana as a Treatment for PTSD? A Future Study Could Prove This. Retrieved July 4, 2015.
Morris, D. (2015). The evil hours: A biography of post-traumatic stress disorder.
James, R. & Gilliland, B. (2014). Crisis Intervention Strategies. Cengage Learning Inc. Obtained from https://online.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781285404714/pages/56707132