Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a trauma diagnosis
shared by men and women who have been troubled by traumatic experiences, and continue to have
symptoms stemming from that trauma that significantly interferes with their lives.
The trauma that triggers PTSD can be wartime experiences, sexual abuse, serious car accidents,
and even simply observing a dangerous situation. While not everyone responds to trauma in the
same way, for those who develop a disorder, some of the following symptoms are typically noted.
Individuals who have PTSD often avoid situations that might evoke the memory of the trauma,
or that seem to place them in similar danger. They often have an unusually exaggerated
startle reflex, or jumpiness, and they tend to feel anxious or depressed. Trauma survivors may
experience flashbacks, which are essentially a vivid reliving of the past trauma and memories
surrounding them, as if they are real. Nightmares are common. Difficulty sleeping, irritability,
and tendency to have an intense hyper vigilance are also common symptoms. PTSD sometimes also leads
to dissociation or Dissociative Disorders.
Treatment of PTSD usually involves therapy, although some medications can also be helpful.
Therapy can be very helpful in learning to manage or eradicate flashbacks and other disruptive
Individuals with dissociative symptoms, in which there is often a loss of time (often as long as
several days) or a feeling of unreality, are especially likely to be referred for therapy.
Complex PTSD in which chronic and persistent severe trauma has occured, presents its own set of
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
When anxiety symptoms are noted to be present in many -- and often nearly all areas of
a person's life, they likely qualify for the criteria of a Generalized Anxiety Disorder. These
individuals may worry, but their anxiety is often much more pervasive than merely excessive worry.
It often interferes dramatically with the life of the individual with an anxiety
Symptoms, in addition to excessive and constant worry, include a rapid heart rate, unusual
sweating and jitteryness, confusion, unreasonable and unexplainable fears and anxiety. Shortness of
breath, nausea, insomnia, shortness of breath, and diarrhea are also seen. Anxiety mostly
interferes with falling asleep, while early morning wakening (not able to get back to sleep) is
more often a symptom of depression.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is responsive to some types of psychotherapy, and also responds
to anti-anxiety medications. A problem with treating this disorder with these medications is,
that while they are effective, many of the more effective ones are very addictive and so are not as
useful when used long term, when tolerance develops.
Panic attacks are very scary, and persons who are having them, are often are worried that
they are going to die, typically because the symptoms feel like a heart attack. In addition to a
sudden very rapid heart beat or chest pain, there is usually difficulty breathing, restlessness,
tingling numbness or cold hands, and a sense of foreboding.
Various relaxation and breathing techniques can be learned that control the symptoms of a panic
attack, and anti-anxiety medication can bring rapid-short term relief from a panic attack.
Both panic attacks and phobias also can be treated with systematic desensitization, in which the
client masters gradually more vexingly anxious situations.
Additionally ,immersion therapies in which persons overcome their anxiety, panic attack or
phobia by immersion in thier fear, is often helpful. Sometimes this is done through virtual
exposure by video-game type exposure to anxiety-provoking stimuli, controlled by the patient.
Persons may experience any of a number of phobias. Some phobias can be ignored or at least
tolerated, but others, like agoraphobia (fear of open spaces) can make some people virtually
housebound. Some of the more problematic phobias that can need clinical attention, in addition to
- social phobias
- claustrophobia (closed spaces)
- fear of germs (contamination, often seen in obsessive-compulsives)
- panphobia (fear of everything).