What is PTSD?

Stress. Emotion. Trauma. What we know about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is that it is a series of symptoms born from a traumatic incident outside normal experiences, such as assault, combat, or disaster. Often, PTSD is a delayed response that surfaces by a trigger.

Emotions are a part of the limbic system in the brain ? an entity all mammals have in common. Fear, anger, and sadness are evolutionary mechanisms stemming from the body as a primal response to physical situations. Once the emotion is an internal dialogue it promptly becomes a physical response in the body. Everybody reacts differently during a stressful situation; the experience can trigger a person to react in a way that exhibits symptoms of someone who has developed PTSD. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) follows a specific criterion to evaluate and diagnose PTSD.

Criterion A – Stressor

The individual experiences a psychologically painful circumstances in which the following have been faced or present: 1. This person personally has witnessed or experienced an event or series of events involving threatened or actual death, grievous injury, or threat to oneself or others. 2. The individual, if an adult, displays reactions of intense fear or horror, and may exhibit some signs of feeling helpless. In children, the criterion is expressed by agitated mannerism or erratic behavior.

Criterion B – Recollection

The event is recalled in at least one of the following ways: 1. Traumatic events for this person may be recalled through thoughts and perceptions. 2. Presence of distressing dreams or nightmares. 3. Involuntary or voluntary reenacting out reactions to the upsetting event, hallucinations, and illusions. 4. Internal or external triggers that symbolize the traumatic event causing psychological distress.

Criterion C – Avoidance

Avoidance of the stimuli in relation with the trauma as evidenced by at least three of the following: 1. Suppression of feelings, thoughts, or discussions associated with the trauma. 2. Avoids places, people, or activities that elicit remembrance of the trauma. 3. Lacks ability to recollect a significant facet of the situation. 4. Noticeable lessened involvement or engagement in important activities. 5. Feeling of estrangement or withdrawal from others. 6. Limited scope of affect (e.g., unable to possess feelings of love). 7. Sense of an abridged future (e.g., does not expect to have employment, children, or a conventional life span).

Criterion D – Hyper-Arousal

Persistent symptoms of increased arousal evidenced by at least two of the following: 1. Insomnia of any degree. 2. Outbursts of intense emotions or irritability 3. Difficulty with concentration 4. Exaggerated vigilance causing fatigue. 5. Magnified startle response

Criterion E – Duration

If the duration of disturbances in types B, C, and D prevails for greater than a month.

Criterion F: Functional Significance

The person’s symptoms increase to clinical distress, or total disturbance in daily life.

Consciousness of overwhelming feelings can be controlled; however, individual’s emotions can become subconscious over a period of time blinding them from the veracity of life. It is critical for survivors of traumatic and psychologically painful events to see a PTSD specialist to help with diagnosis and undergo trauma therapy if warranted.

References: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/pages/dsm-iv-tr-ptsd.asp http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/limbicsystem.html http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml

Author Bio: This article was written by Sarah Gerhke, a certified nurse.

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