Post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition that sets in for a seemingly healthy individual who has been exposed to an extreme stressor for at least a month: a serious accident or natural disaster, a criminal assault or rape, participation in a war. in combatant mode, sexual or physical abuse of a child or abandonment by parents, witness to an impressive accident, the unexpected death of a loved one.
Post-Vietnam syndrome was the conceptual entity that preceded the introduction of the disorder in specialized textbooks.
In the United States, it is estimated that 5% of the population suffers from this disease and 8% have had it in their lifetime.
In women, the disease is twice as common as in men.
In Romania, studies were made on this type of disease after the 1977 earthquake.
Acute shock reactions, as they were then called, were overwhelming.
How does it manifest?
A person with post-traumatic stress has the following symptoms:
- repeated reliving of the initial traumatic event (by unwanted memory of the event in the form of sequences, by nightmares and by exaggerated reactions, physical or emotional, to people or places related to the initial event);
- lack of reaction to what is happening around, manifested by avoiding any activity, loss of interest in what is around;
- sleep disorders;
- irritability or outbursts of anger;
- difficulty concentrating.
All of these symptoms may occur together or in the form of specific reactions, such as:
- Panic attack – occurs when something or someone reminds the patient of the trauma they went through. It is manifested with intense anxiety, accompanied, as a rule, by physical or mental manifestations;
- Premeditated avoidance of any everyday situation that might remind them of previous trauma;
- Depression – manifested by diminished interest and pleasure, unjustified idea of guilt or self-blame;
- Suicidal ideation, as a more serious form of depression (studies show that over 50% of rape victims had the thought of suicide in mind);
- The use of substances such as drugs, alcohol, as a method of reducing pain (this causes a worsening of the existing situation and makes psychiatric treatment much more difficult);
- The tendency to isolation, caused by the belief that others are not able to understand and help him, a situation that can cause social dysfunctions;
- Delusional ideation (conviction of the possibility to communicate with the loved one, deceased), illusions, hallucinations.
It is considered that if the symptoms last less than a month, we can not talk about post-traumatic stress syndrome, but only about an acute stress syndrome, but it increases the risk of developing post-traumatic stress syndrome later. If the symptoms last more than three months, we are already talking about a chronic stress syndrome.
Treatment of post-traumatic stress syndrome
Time is, for some patients, the most effective treatment. However, there are some of them for whom the psychotraumatic event remains active in the memory, dominating their subjective and objective existence.
Treatment involves a complex approach in which the medication is doubled by psychotherapy.
Drug treatment is determined by the patient’s distinct needs. This may include the administration of antidepressants, effective in treating anxiety disorders, antipsychotics, if hallucinations or delirium occur, hypnoinducers in the case of sleep disorders.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is effective in post-traumatic stress disorder, and focuses on changing one’s thoughts, thus generating healthier behaviors and reactions.
In this type of intervention we mention:
- The patient confronts and controls his fear, in a safe environment, using his imagination or visiting the place where the traumatic event took place.
- Cognitive restructuring. The patient is helped to access their traumatic memories, the related emotions, and to look at the situation in a realistic way.
- Relaxation. Relaxation techniques are useful in reducing the level of anxiety, which paralyzes the patient’s psyche.