A Misunderstood Disorder
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is one of the most misunderstood psychological disorders in recent medical history. There are so many people afflicted with PTSD and yet the disorder is underdiagnosed. All too often victims of the disorder are taught to regard their symptoms as “normal” phenomena everyone experiences. Despite these misconceptions PTSD is a real disorder affecting millions around the world. Traumatic experiences tend to leave a lasting impression on their victims. Whether we are talking about the horrors of war or the fright of a sexual assault the potential for post traumatic stress disorder is real.
Identifying Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
As the name suggests PTSD occurs after a stressful event. There isn’t a distinct type of stress exposure that certainly leads to PTSD. Some people can experience a life threatening event without any linger psychic effects and some will find themselves unable to cope. Those who experience trauma they can’t cope well with are often but not always PTSD victims.
When PTSD is suspected a number of key symptoms can help eliminate other possible diagnoses. Victims of PTSD tend to “relive” the traumatic events in their life through flashbacks and memory “triggers”. When in contact with something that reminds them of their trauma PTSD patients will try to avoid any interaction with the offending object. For example if a particular hat reminds a victim of someone who harmed them they will attempt to avoid interacting with anyone who wears that particular hat style.
Treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
While PTSD can have a severe impact on the lives of those afflicted with the disease and their loved ones there are ways to treat the disorder through psychotherapy and psychiatry. Therapy in particular can address the overlying symptoms of PTSD such as overreaction to triggering stimuli by helping sufferers desensitize themselves. Although PTSD is not considered a hereditary disorder there is a strong genetic component to the disorder. Genetics may account for 30% of the variance of post traumatic stress disorder. For this reason many persons with PTSD will need the assistance of psychiatric medicine.
The medicine used to treat PTSD comes in 3 important categories. Most commonly PTSD is treated with antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. SSRIs help sufferers by slowing down the breakdown of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin plays an important role in uplifting mood and may improve the ability to cope. Another option for PTSD is the use of benzodiazepines. This class of drugs helps PTSD victims by giving them a means of instantly relieving anxiety and insomnia caused by the disorder. Another important class of drugs used to treat PTSD is the use of glucocorticoids. Glucocorticoids are drugs that increase levels of the hormone cortisol. PTSD is often associated with low levels of cortisol and there is research suggesting that PTSD sufferers may have disrupted levels of cortisol or cortisol receptors.