The world of abnormal psychology is filled with many different types of disorders, symptoms, and treatment options. Today, I will be working with Roger, a middle-aged accountant living in San Francisco, California who experienced a car wreck a few months ago. He has been experiencing shakiness, breathlessness, heat flashes, and nightmares. He has been trying to cope with the symptoms that he is experiencing through alcohol consumption and going jogging. Using the skills I have learned about abnormal psychology, I will be able to diagnose Roger and provide an explanation as to why he is suffering from the type of disorder that he is experiencing, as well as determine the most effective treatment options available.
Based on the information provided to me, I am diagnosing Roger with post-traumatic stress disorder. Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that is experienced by people who have been subjected to a traumatic, life-changing event. Although I am quite certain that this is the disorder that Roger is suffering from, I scheduled an appointment with him to get more details about the symptoms that he is experiencing.
Me: Good morning, Roger, I wanted to call you in today to talk about the things that you are experiencing on a day-to-day basis so that I will learn more about yourself and the things that you are experiencing so that we can work together to come up with solutions that benefit you overcoming your experience.
Roger: That sounds like a good plan, what would you like to know? Me: Well can you please begin with telling me what happened 2 months ago, so that I may hear it in your own words? Roger: Sure, about two months ago I was in a car accident where the other driver hit me head on. I wasn’t hurt, except for a few minor bruises, but my car was completely totaled. Since then, I try to avoid the area where I got into my accident. Me: Thank you for that information, Roger. Car accidents can be quite traumatizing and I’m sorry that you had to experience that misfortune. Roger: It’s okay, I’m just glad I got out of it alive. But the accident seems to stick with me no matter what I do, though. Me: Do you mind elaborating on that for me please, Roger?
Roger: Well, ever since the accident I notice that whenever I am around the streets or in an automobile of any kind, I begin to feel shaky and out of breath. Then everything begins to get really hot and sometimes it feels like I am having a heart attack, so I begin to panic. Me: That’s very interesting Roger, have you been to your primary care doctor to see if there is a physical issue that is causing those symptoms? Roger: Yes, ma’am. My doctor told me that I am healthy as a horse and recommended me to you. So here I am. *laughs nervously* Me: I am glad that you are here to give me the opportunity to help you, Roger. Are there any other symptoms that you have been experiencing since your accident? Roger: Um, I’ve been obsessed with safer vehicles and I’ve spent a lot of time looking for an extremely safe car and have taken a defensive driving class. Some days I am so afraid to drive that I have to call my friends to come get me, and I can’t seem to find a car that meets my safety standards.
Me: I can completely understand why you feel that way, Roger. Safety should always be the number one priority when out on the road. So you feel this anxiety only affects you when you are out on the roads? Roger: No, not at all. I’ve been having these horrible nightmares. Sometimes they are so bad that I can’t even make it to work, and my boss has started telling me that my performance is slipping, too. I’ve been drinking a lot since my accident because I can’t seem to get the thought of it out of my mind and it is the only thing that seems to help when I feel shaky. I’ve started to drink just to get the memory of the accident out of my mind. At home, I’m so worried about my family’s well-being that I try to keep everything clean and sterile. I don’t want myself or anyone in my family getting sick or going through what I went through.
Roger: I know that this isn’t me and I don’t want to be please like this anymore, so can you please help me get past this? Because I don’t know what to do anymore and I’m having trouble just making it through each day. When I have my…panic attacks?…I usually head straight for the bar. Roger: After I have my nightmares, I usually can’t go back to sleep I go jogging. Being able to run helps me clear my mind of everything and just focus on the task at hand. Unfortunately, I’m not in very good shape so I can’t run for very long before I have to return home. Me: Thank you so much for explaining all of that to me in such detail, Roger, I could see that it was difficult for you. I want to let you know that it is excellent that you are going out jogging whenever you have a nightmare, and I want you to continue you doing that whenever possible in place of drinking. Me: Together you and I will find a way to get you through this, all I asking is for you to be willing to work with me. Can you do that, Roger? Roger: Yes, definitely. I’m ready to move on with my life.
After the interview with Roger, I was able to gain more insight about his situation and am able to confirm that he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. As mentioned before, Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that is experienced by people who have been subjected to a traumatic, life-changing event such as being raped, in a car accident, combat, or witnessing someone else’s traumatic experience, such as a loved one or a friend, and even witnessing a violent death can cause acute and posttraumatic stress disorders. Individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder becoming sensitized to the event that caused the disorder, causing them to experience feelings of anxiety when exposed to certain things related to the traumatic event.
One of the key symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder is involuntary flashbacks of the traumatic event which can lead to the development of more severe symptoms. Those symptoms include: * Nightmares- the event relives itself in the subconscious, usually leading to insomnia * Depression – not enjoying the things you once enjoyed, disassociation * Anxiety, panic attacks – negative reactions to situations or sights/events that trigger a reconnection to the trauma. * Avoidance – For a traumatic event such as a car accident, avoiding the area where the accident occurred. * Substance Abuse: The abuse of drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism to desensitize emotional response to flashback or other symptoms.
The Cognitive model of abnormality realizes that everyone creates their own view of the world that comprises their reality (Comer, 2011). Unhealthy thoughts stemming from a traumatic event create the abnormal behavior individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder experience. Therefore, post-traumatic stress disorder is a behavior that is determined by how individuals perceive the life-changing traumatic event that they experience. Looking into the history of post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD was first discovered during the Civil War, with the development of battle PTSD, also known as ‘soldier’s heart,’ ‘shell shock,’ and ‘battle fatigue,’ becoming known officially as post-traumatic stress disorder after the Vietnam War. A study conducted by Brian P. Marx in 2010 discovered that soldiers developed PTSD regardless of how recently or how long they were deployed. The study also showed that the longer PTSD is left untreated, the worse it will get, showing that untreated cases will become more anxious, have a shorter attention span, and in general have much poorer mental health.
The study also found that “the stress these soldiers were experiencing had a significant impact on their physical health such as immune functioning and cardiovascular disease (“The effect of PTSD and combat level on Vietnam veterans’ perceptions of child behavior and marital adjustment,” 2006, para. ). Today, about 50% of Americans experience a trauma during their life time and only 8% of those individuals suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. So what factors cause certain people to develop post- traumatic stress disorder, while other individuals remained unaffected? One of the most important factors to consider when determining what type of individual is more likely to suffer from PTSD is the nature of trauma the individual faced and whether the individual had preexisting anxiety issues before their traumatic event. Studies have shown that individuals who were exposed to severe, prolonged trauma or trauma affecting one’s family were more likely to develop PTSD than individuals who did not.
Using the Cognitive model of abnormality as a guide, there are several options for treating posttraumatic stress disorder. The most effective treatment is cognitive therapy, in which “therapists help clients recognize the negative thoughts, biased interpretations, and errors in logic that dominate their thinking” (Comer, 2011). Cognitive therapy is most effective for individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder because it teaches the individual positive ways confront the negative thoughts and emotions surrounding their experience with their traumatic event by showing them how to understand the trauma that they went through and the feelings that they are experiencing afterwards. Helping the individual suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder understand why they are feeling the way they do about their traumatic experience is also important, as well as identify the thoughts and actions that make symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder worse.
There are also further treatment options for individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and most anxiety disorders, including: * Relaxation: an individual is taught how to relax certain muscles by themselves instead of relaxing as a whole. Relaxation treatments have been the most successful in the treatment of anxiety symptoms such as high blood pressure and headaches as well as insomnia and panic attacks. * Biofeedback: an individual is connection to a machine that reads involuntary body movements enabling the individual to learn how to control those movements. This treatment has been most helpful in those recovering from post-traumatic stress disorders. * Meditation: is achieved my turning one’s concentration inward and blocking everything surrounding out allowing the individual to obtain a sort of peace from blocking out stressors. Meditation has been successful in helping symptoms of anxiety such as high blood pressure, pain, and in some cases, viral infections (due to having a weaker immune system as a side effect of constant stress and anxiety).
* Hypnosis: individuals a guided by a hypnotist, who lulls the individual into a sleep like trance, similar to meditation. In this trance the subconscious takes over and individuals can sometimes be directed to act in unusual ways, experience unusual sensations, remember seemingly forgotten events, or forget remembered events. This method is helpful with post-traumatic stress disorder victims who are suffering from amnesia and are unable to recall the traumatic event in order to come to terms with what happened and learn how to recover from it. In conclusion, post-traumatic stress disorder is a disorder that is caused by a traumatic, life changing event such as being raped, in a car accident, combat, or witnessing someone else’s traumatic experience, such as a loved one or a friend, and even witnes sing a violent death.
The most effective treatment option for post-traumatic stress disorder as per the Cognitive model of abnormality is cognitive therapy in which ““therapists help clients recognize the negative thoughts, biased interpretations, and errors in logic that dominate their thinking” (Comer, 2011). I hope that with my thorough evaluation of the origin, causes, symptoms, and treatments of post-traumatic stress disorder, I am able to help Roger overcome the symptoms that he is experiencing from his post-traumatic stress disorder and assist him with his therapy so that he can return back to a normal life.
Comer, R. J. (2011). Fundamentals of abnormal psychology (6th ed.). New York, NY: Worth.
Faces of Abnormal Psychology Interactive. (2007). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder McGraw-Hill Higher Education Web Site, retrieved on February 2, 2013, from http://www.mhhe.com/socscience/psychology/faces/# The effect of PTSD and combat level on Vietnam veterans’ perceptions of child behavior and marital adjustment. (2006, Febraury). Journal of Clinical Psychology, 51(1), 4-12.