Overwhelming events that are considered to be well beyond the normal range of normal experience results in a condition known as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This condition generates waves of anxiety, anger, aggression, depression and suspicion which can threaten a person’s sense of self and interferes with normal coping behaviors as well as activities of daily living.
Post traumatic stress disorder results from exposure to extreme and overwhelming events that brings a deep emotional and psychological scar which significantly affects the individuals psychosocial and emotional well being. Specific examples of individuals who are at high risk for PTSD are those who experienced rape, family violence, torture, terrorist attacks, fire, earthquake and military conflicts. Individuals who have experienced a traumatic event are often frequent users of health care services, actively seeking treatment for overall emotional and physical trauma that these victims experienced.
Physiologic response of post traumatic stress disorder
The physiologic response noted in people who have been severely traumatized include increased activity of the sympathetic nervous system, increased plasma catecholamine levels and increased urinary epinephrine and norepinephrine levels. It has been proposed that people suffering from PTSD lose the ability to control their response to active stimuli. The resulting excessive arousal can lead to an increase overall body metabolism which triggers the emotional reactivity which is often characterized as dysfunctional and conflicting to normal reactions. In this situation, members of the health care team must be very vigilant in observing for exaggerated startle response and overactive reactions to certain stimulating visual, auditory as well as a tactile stimulus which an individual associates with the traumatic event.
Symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder
Symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder can occur hours to years after the initial trauma is experienced. Acute PTSD is defined as the experience of visible manifesting symptoms of less than three months. On the other hand, chronic post traumatic stress disorder can last for more than three months. In the case of delayed onset of PTSD which can manifest itself for as long as six months may elapse between the trauma and the manifestation of symptoms.
Symptoms of PTSD typically rise very suddenly or can come and go over time as the case may be. On some occasions, some symptoms can seemingly appear out of the blue and at other times, they are triggered by a stimulus (normally visual or auditory) that reminds the person of the original traumatic event. Although every person experiences PTSD very uniquely and differently, the three main types of symptoms are but not limited to the following: (1) re-experiencing the traumatic event, (2) increased anxiety and emotional provocation and (3) avoidance of anything associated with the trauma experienced.
Implications of post traumatic stress disorder
It is often thought that the incidence of PTSD is very low in the overall population,
however, the incidence among older adults are surprisingly on the rise. This is because the older adult’s body due to the advance age and normal wear and tear throughout the lifespan has resulted to neural deactivation associated with ageing. Treatment of individuals with post traumatic stress disorder includes several essential components; (1) establishing a trusting relationship, addressing and working through the trauma experience and providing education about the coping skills needed for recovery and self-care.