Rape victims, survivors of plane crashes, combat veterans, and others who have experienced extremely traumatic events may react emotionally with a posttraumatic stress disorder. This reaction is characterized by involuntary reexperiencing of the traumatic events, especially the original feelings of shock, horror, and fear, in dreams or flashbacks. In addition, victims experience an emotional numbing in relation to everyday events, associated with feelings of alienation from other people. Finally, the emotional pain of this reaction can result in an increase of various symptoms, such as sleep problems, guilt about surviving, difficulty in concentrating, and an exaggerated startle response (Calkins, 1996).
The Situation: 9/11
A more recent example was the 9/11 incident. The safety and protection that was a seal of American social order was devastated by the 9/11 aftermath. The American people who have gone through the bereavement of either of their parents, brothers, sisters, next of kin, or friends may well be putting up now with overpowering anguish. They will want all the emotional assistance they can obtain and they will need an extended recovery period. Life will never look the same again for any oblivious or sentient American people, but the young people who have upheld personal fatalities may need considerable support from qualified, compassionate specialists (Skene, 2001).
The world is not in the slightest peaceful, but at present, there is no security issue taking center stage and the situation in the 9/11 assault is no exception. The 9/11 event had impressed upon America a greater sense of threat at the advent of the new millennium. The 9/11 terrorist attacks incited terror, fury, grief, revulsion, fear, empathy, bewilderment, melancholy, retribution – sundry reactions in a nation that was everlastingly changed.
To translate the mixed reaction of a private individual in a more politically relevant sense, it is wise to recall how then Senator Edward Livingston could be more important at these times with his words in a debate on the Alien and Sedition Acts: “…we are absurd enough to call ourselves free and enlightened while we advocate principles that would have disgraced the age of Gothic barbarity” (Skene, 2001).
They may well not entirely come to terms with the intangible theories thrashed out by counselors or on the television newscast but are prone to be directed in their thoughts by a distinct discernment of validity. They may have dealings with a diversity of sentiments and impressions, and their articulation may subsume mimicking or self-deleterious actions as a way of dealing with their retaliation, fury, and despondency. A number of children at this phase may demonstrate a reluctance to speak of their sentiments and thoughts (Dunn, 2001).
The Psychology of Situation: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
The emotional responses of posttraumatic stress can occur immediately following the disaster in an acute form and subside over a period of several months or can persist, becoming a chronic syndrome often called the residual stress pattern. In other cases, people may show no immediate reaction but may experience a full-blown posttraumatic stress disorder after a delay of months or even years. Clinicians are still discovering veterans of World War II and the Korean War who are displaying residual or delayed posttraumatic stress disorders (Hinkle, 2004).
This delayed posttraumatic stress syndrome has been a special problem in the case of Vietnam veterans. The problems of many seemed to be made worse by feelings that they had been rejected by an unsympathetic American public and that they had been betrayed by their government and had spent important years of their lives in a wasted effort (Bornstein, 1994).
In a study of Vietnam veterans with combat experience, called the “Forgotten Warrior Project,” John Wilson, a psychologist at Cleveland State University found that (Kagan, 2004):
- Their suicide rate was 23 to 33 percent higher than the national average.
- Of those who had been married when they left the United States, 38 percent were divorced within six months after returning.
- The rate of hospitalization for alcoholism or drinking problems was high and increasing.
- About half of them still had some emotional problems related to adjustment of civilian life.
Brian Seaward is one of the authors that delved into the realm of stress and its health consequences. Seaward notes that aside from the special life events that may be experienced by almost everyone, the most appreciable part of the list is the concept of change. This implies that change may be in tandem with stress as being a natural part of modern-day living. That change is the ultimate source of stress. “Change becomes a powerful stressor agent because it necessitates adaptation whether it is perceived as a negative or positive experience” (Calkins, 1996).
The important features of posttraumatic stress disorder, according to Seaward, are cognition and stress. Stress affects cognition as anxiety intrudes on one’s consciousness as demonstrated by his unstoppable pangs of emotion, excessive preoccupation with the threatening situation or person, startling reactions, and other unwanted sensations. It may also impair memory and attention during cognitive tasks. It may also enhance attention, principally regarding memories of the stressor but repetitive thoughts can perpetuate stress and make it chronic (Calkins, 1996).
Seaward also enumerates the emotional signs of health hassle, which are among others, anxiety, irritability, increased aggression, lack of enthusiasm, depression, alienation, and low self-esteem. Indecision, impaired judgments, lack of concentration, lapses in memory, and absentmindedness are some cases of mental drawbacks caused by health troubles.
Seaward also shows that there are individuals who are more prone to health troubles than others. As a result, the ability to cope with poor health is not the same with everyone. For instance, effective coping with stress depends upon how people go about their day-to-day lives. Lifestyle is a key factor in determining the likelihood of an improved posttraumatic stress disorder (Calkins, 1996).
Posttraumatic stress disorder is usually coupled with feelings of sadness, discouragement, and dissatisfaction and usually occurs with other symptoms, such as feelings of worthlessness or guilt, decreased energy, and suicidal thoughts. Just as one can have the flu and bladder infection at the same time, it is quite possible, especially in the milder forms of bipolar disorder, to be both abnormally depressed and anxious at the same time (Dunn, 2001).
Survivors of extremely traumatic experiences such as 9/11 are sometimes left with special anxiety problems. Some act as if they have been by the shock of their ordeal. Their interest in life is diminished, and they feel alienated from the people around them. Others develop a tendency to remain constantly on the alert, as if disaster is sure to strike again at any moment.
They tend also to startle easily. People who have lived through auto crashes may panic at the sound if cars in the night. Those who have endured a mugging or rape may respond with a start whenever they hear strange sounds, and some former prisoners o war and hostages report similar reactions whenever they hear approaching footsteps (Skene, 2001).
Survivors of psychological trauma are likely also to keep reliving their experience. They suffer from nightmares in which the shattering episode is reenacted in all its terrifying detail, and by day they find themselves suddenly overwhelmed by harrowing memories whenever they are exposed to situations that even remotely resemble the original event (García, 2005).
There is evidence also that mood disorders are related to disturbances in the brain, to such an extent that the symptoms sometimes appear without any provocation. Neither the depressed individual nor the close family and friends can point to any unusually stressful event that might have caused a depression (Dunn, 2001).
The Responsive Behavior of the Young and the Old
Posttraumatic stress reactions can occur at any age. Some people get over the traumatic experience of 9/11 soon enough, but others are troubled by symptoms for years on end. A number of elderly concentration camp survivors broke down completely decades after their ordeal was over when they had to be hospitalized for medical reasons. The experience was sufficiently similar to imprisonment to reopen fully the old psychological wounds (García, 2005).
Children endure with bereavement a lot in the vein of adults, but with still not as much of discernment (García, 2005). When taking children in hand, it is imperative to recognize that they almost certainly discern more than what parents grant them credit for. Despite the fact that parents inherently desire to safeguard their children from pain, even the youngest kid understands that something is dreadfully wrong and yearns to grasp why the every adult distraught and in tears.
This protective attitude merely serves to deprive the child of a chance to learn more about grief management and coping skills, which are indispensable throughout a person’s life, especially when he or she continues live in the absence of any parent who is supposed to shield them from deep sorrow since it is the parent or any close relative who has passed away (García, 2005).
It is essential to acknowledge that every child is inimitable in his or her comprehension of the entire process of death. This discernment hinge on their developmental phase, intellectual skills, teachings by parents, teachers, and significant others, personality attributes, imagery in the media, spiritual convictions, and prior incidents of death induced by 9/11 (Hinkle, 2004). Nevertheless, there are a number of consequential factors that will be useful in comprehending how young people live through and cope with death and its aftermath (Dunn, 2001).
Coping strategy of an individual’s behavioral and psychological efforts to buffer or minimize environmental and internal demands of posttraumatic stress disorder. Coping means that the person is “taking charge of his or her own life and is seeking the resources needed to solve current problems” (García, 2005). Seaward furthers that although the coping strategies used by individuals are often distinct, coping temperaments are to a large extent acquired from the social environment.
The manner in which people attempt to resolve stressful situations, the cognitive strategies that they use to downsize threat, and the techniques for handling tensions are largely gained from the groups to which they belong. A person tries to contain the threat and beat stress in two ways, namely focusing on the problem and on the emotions (Bornstein, 1994).
Other grown-ups are overly wrapped up in their anguish to make an effort to comprehend how the firsthand witnesses of the 9/11 attacks fathom. Other people usually misconstrue the bystander’s demonstration of sentiments, characteristically hold themselves responsible for their fellowmen’s lamentation or rage. Therefore, even though it is likely for the entire people to express their sorrow in the presence of the world, it is essential to impart an elucidation to the terrorist that they can face the future more stalwartly. Discovering how to communicate their anguish, resentment, and apprehension will help Americans to contend with comparable disasters if truly inevitable in the future (Skene, 2001).
No question about it; the 9/11 incident was the commencement of enlarged hostilities and vigilance as well. The imagery being broadcast was far too excruciating to behold. Mass terrorism is not a regular crime; it is an enormously terrible crime. Tens of thousands, more or less, are the terrorists’ target to inflict fatality or fear upon, and they are more than determined to rule the world. With continued weak will, no wonder how more people would struggle to stay untreated with posttraumatic stress disorder (Skene, 2001).
Attitudes toward those with posttraumatic stress disorder have improved over time. Today, individuals with PTSD are fortunate enough to be treated in hospitals and clinics instead of being out away in prisons or asylums. But they are still far from universally accepted either within the family or community. How they are viewed by others can be critical. It can help determine whether they will recover sufficiently to function in society, or to continue to be overwhelmed by their symptoms and even get worse (Calkins, 1996).
For a person with posttraumatic stress disorder, there is no clear-cut organic problem, no violation of basic social norms, and no loss of orientation to reality, but the individual shows a lifelong pattern of self-defeating and inadequate coping strategies aimed more at reducing anxiety than at solving life problems. By mental aberrations or psychological scars, the PTSD patient proves to others that he or she is impotent in the face of a threatening world (Dunn, 2001).
Our growing understanding of posttraumatic stress disorder does more than enable society to reclaim its familiar stranger. In making sense of posttraumatic stress disorder, we are forced to come to grips with basic conceptions of normality, reality, and social values. And mind loosed from its stable moorings does not just go on its solitary way; it bumps into other minds, sometimes changing their stability (Kagan, 2004).
Many PSTD patients are privately treated at home, while others have learned to conceal their disturbances and not act crazy in public. Still others act out their mental problems in ways that society does not judge as mentally disordered; perhaps joining the hate groups, or engaging in socially acceptable forms of violence. Just as unemployment statistics do not include all those who are chronically unemployed and have stopped looking for work, so, too, statistics on posttraumatic stress disorder omit those who suffer in silence, living a marginal existence on the fringes of society (Hinkle, 2004).
Indeed, victims of posttraumatic stress disorder caused by 9/11 are usually beset by extremely difficult psychological and social problems. They are likely to be financially strapped, not only because the therapy can be expensive, but also it interferes with productive work. They tend to be outcasts from both the family and society at large. Often the only persons willing to give them serious attention are their fellow PTSD patients, which do not really help as negativity enlarges (Bornstein, 1994). Under such depressive, circumstance, they need considerable help to break free from prejudiced society and get a fresh start in life.
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Bornstein, Marc H. (1994). Psychology and Its Allied Disciplines. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Dunn, Edgar S. (2001). Abnormal Psychology. Resources for the Future.
García, Cynthia. (2005). “Developmental Psychology.” Merrill-Palmer Quarterly.
Hinkle, Gisela J. (2004). The Development of Modern Sociology: Its Nature and Growth in the United States. Random House.
Kagan, Jerome. (2004). “The Limitations of Concepts in Developmental Psychology.” Developmental Psychology.
Skene, Neil. (2001). “Sacrificing Freedoms in the Name of Saving Them.” Atlanta: Creative Loafing.