In his book, ‘post-traumatic stress disorder source book’, Schiraldi, Glenn identifies three major causes of post-traumatic stress disorder. These are, “intentional Human causes (the most difficult to recover from), unintentional Human causes and the acts of Nature (least complex and can be resolved quickly)” (Schiraldi, 2000: pg.4). The intentional human causes include those traumatic events that are intentionally caused or triggered by humans. These events include war, rape, physical torture, robbery with violence, use of bombs and explosions, killing someone, kidnapping and holding others hostage.
Unintentional human causes involve those traumatic events that occur accidentally. These include car accidents, plane crash, collapse of a building, fire and exposure to nuclear reactants. There are also post-traumatic stress disorders that are caused by events of nature. These natural catastrophes are always more severe and disastrous. It includes earthquakes, flood, drought, outbreak of certain diseases, hurricanes and occurrence of volcanic activities. Other cause that may trigger post-traumatic stress disorder involves the changes in the normal biochemical rate in the brain which results to a condition known as Neuroendocrinology.
Apart from this condition, morphological changes in the brain have also been identified as another cause of post-traumatic stress disorder. Various studies have shown that the existence of amygdale in the brain usually result to the development of emotional flashbacks. These flashbacks are mainly those related to worry and horror. Genetics have also been identified as another cause leading to post-traumatic stress disorder. Various studies in genetics have shown that some characteristics that are possessed by a parent who is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder are sometimes passed on to the children. These characteristics that are usually passed to the children include violence and aggressiveness.
Signs and symptoms:
The signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder usually manifest itself within three to four months following the trauma. In other cases, these symptoms might last for a year or even several years. The symptoms in most cases manifest in various ways as discussed below.
1) Recurring memories: Memories and experiences of the real traumatic event usually re-emerge in form of dreams, images and thoughts. The re-emergence of these memories is usually unexpected and the victim usually undergoes difficult moment since the memories are so hard to bear. Such memories in most cases inflict feelings of fear to the victim, anger and also guilt. In his book, Schiraldi Glenn provides an example to this scenario by stating that, “a survivor of a Russian prisoner-of –war camp often daydreams, absorbed in unpleasant memories and out of touch with his surroundings. A number of cues can trigger this re-experience, including thin soup, walking in the woods, Russian music, a harsh rebuke by a supervisor, or any unpleasant confrontation. Sometimes there is no apparent connection to the thoughts or feelings that are replayed,” (Schiraldi, 2000: pg 7).
Recurring memories usually manifest in terms of nightmares. These nightmares in most cases reflect the accurate traumatic events or almost similar events as those of the real trauma. Most individuals who experience nightmares in most cases do not get enough sleep as they are being interrupted by the imaginations.
Recurring memories can also manifest in terms of flash backs. Flash backs makes an individual feel as if the real traumatic events are being revived and can influence the behavior and the feelings of an individual.
2) Arousal: Post-traumatic stress disorder is also characterized by over reaction of an individual to any event that seems to cause panic. The victims’ reaction becomes spontaneous due to the sensitivity of the nervous system as a result of destructive traumatic events. The reaction of an individual to even smaller interruptions is as spontaneous as the bigger ones. As a result of arousal, an individual usually develops difficulties in falling asleep, lacks concentration, becomes short tempered, overcautious, develops fear to the recurrence of the same event, becomes over expectant to disasters and overprotective.
3) Avoidance or numbing: Because the thoughts of traumatic events are very painful to most of the victims, most people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder usually look for various ways of avoiding the reminders to such events. In most cases, they avoid talking about it while in other instances they restrict their minds from thinking about such events. Most of the victims therefore end up staying indoors to avoid coming in contact to reminders of the tragic events.
4) The normal routine of an individual is disrupted: One losses interest in his/her future ambitions due to too much cautiousness and the avoidance of exploring different avenues and mingling with other people to gain more knowledge. Victims of post-traumatic stress disorder are therefore in most cases locked in their own world.
Treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder:
Treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder is mainly aimed at relieving symptoms because there is no treatment that can completely wipe out the post-traumatic stress disorder. Treatment can therefore be achieved by use of two methods. These include use of drugs and non-drug treatment methods.
Non-drug treatments involve the following;
a) Cognitive therapy: It is believed that different ways of thinking can lead to various mental disorders including the post-traumatic stress disorder. Therefore, during the cognitive therapy, the patient is advised on various thinking patterns and how to avoid false perceptions and thoughts. They are also thought on the importance of thinking positively and constructively. At the end of every session, each and every patient is given an assignment to go and try it out at home (http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/ncmain).
b) Eye movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: This treatment usually involves therapist asking the patient to think about any traumatic occurrence. As the patient is thinking about the event, the therapist moves his/her fingers so that the patient can follow it with his/her eyes (Schmeltzer & Bhagar, 2007). It is not clear how this treatment works but after a couple of therapy session, most of the patients are no longer worried by the thoughts of the event.
c) Individual Help: This involves all the individuals having the same signs coming up together. The patients can then share their experiences and learn from one another on the possible ways of overcoming the trauma.
a) Antidepressant drugs: These drugs are in real sense used in the treatment of depression but it has also been found out to suppress the post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. They usually work by blocking the chemicals in the brain that lead to the development of the symptoms. These drugs usually take two to four weeks or even months before their results can be noticed.
b) Benzodiazepines: These drugs are used for short term mainly to reduce the chances of an individual not falling asleep and also to get rid of those symptoms leading to sleep interruptions. The problem with this drug is that they are not effective if taken for a longer period of time. The patient is supposed to use it within two to three weeks (Rose & Armstrong 1997).
Post-traumatic stress can be prevented by employing the following measures;
1) Debriefing: This technique is usually employed to soldiers after war and also to those victims that underwent through events of natural catastrophes (Schmeltzer & Bhagar, 2007). It mainly involves victims exchanging feelings and thoughts about the tragic event.
2) Immediate therapy: Studies have shown that incase an individual is provided with therapy within the first two weeks of trauma, the chances of individual developing long term post-traumatic stress disorder is drastically reduced.
3) Taking short medication drugs: Drugs such as benzodiazepine when taken by the victim immediately, the chances of him/her developing long-term symptoms is also reduced.
Though most of the victims of post-traumatic stress take long to experience the symptoms; it is very crucial that an individual who is suffering from trauma seek for help immediately. The treatment that the victim is able to obtain will be very useful as it will suppress the long term symptoms from re-emerging. Victims of trauma that usually don’t get treatment can be completely crippled by the post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. Some victims may feel guilt of surviving a tragic event or not providing enough assistance to those who perished. These may negatively affect on the normalcy of an individual.