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PTSD: The Need-to-Know Series

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PTSD is getting much more attention these days. And that’s because our brave fighting women and men have been pursuing help. But just ask an assault victim – the horror of PTSD goes well beyond the military battlefield.

Every so often I come upon a subject that merits a chipur “need-to-know series.” Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) more than qualifies.

So I’m going to present probably three articles (I never know ’til I get crankin’) on PTSD over the next four days or so. And we’ll begin today with a look at exactly what PTSD is.

Statistics

The best way I know to bring an emotional/mental health disorder to life is to first offer-up some stats. Check-out these telling PTSD numbers…

  • Approximately 7.7 million American adults (some 3.5% of the demographic) in any given year will have PTSD.
  • PTSDs median age of onset is 23 years, but it can develop at any age – including childhood.
  • Among those who are victims of a severe traumatic experience, 60-80% will develop PTSD.
  • Women are two to three times more susceptible to PTSD than men. In fact, 10% of women will develop it.
  • On average, 3-6% of high school students in the United States, and as many as 30%-60% of children, who have survived specific disasters have PTSD.
  • 50% of all outpatient mental health patients have PTSD.
  • Some 30% of war veterans will develop PTSD.

Amazing (disturbing) stats, don’t you think?

How Is One Diagnosed with PTSD?

As you may know, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) is the current diagnostic “Bible” for the emotional and mental health disorders.

I have some issues with the DSM-IV-TR; however, I’ll give it this – it provides a descriptive guide that’s helpful in at least coming to understand and identify a disorder.

Okay, here’s my edited version of the diagnostic criteria for PTSD, according to the DSM-IV-TR

To be diagnosed with PTSD (classified as an anxiety disorder, by the way), one has to have a history of exposure to a specific kind of traumatic event. And one has to experience specific reactionary symptoms. And there’s a duration factor involved.

Now, I’m not going to strictly adhere to the DSM-IV-TR‘s “two of these”/”four of those” format. I’d rather present the information within the context of painting a picture. My gut is, you’ll get the idea.

Let’s break it down, okay?

The Traumatic Event

One has to be exposed to a traumatic event(s) that’s a fit with the following…

  • Experiencing, witnessing, or being confronted with an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury – or a threat to one’s, or another’s, physical integrity.
  • The response to the event involves intense fear, helplessness, or horror. (In children, the response may be expressed by disorganized or agitated behavior.)

Intrusive Recollection

The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in the following ways…

  • Recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions. (In young children, repetitive play may occur in which themes or aspects of the trauma are expressed.)
  • Recurrent distressing dreams of the event. (In children, there may be frightening dreams without recognizable content.)
  • Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and flashback episodes, including those that occur upon awakening or when intoxicated). (In children, trauma-specific reenactment may occur.)
  • Intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize – resemble – an aspect of the traumatic event.
  • Physiologic reactivity upon exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize – resemble – an aspect of the traumatic event.

Avoidant/Numbing

Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the trauma), as indicated by the following…

  • Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma.
  • Efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma.
  • Inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma.
  • Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities.
  • Feeling of detachment or estrangement from others.
  • Restricted range of affect (e.g.: unable to have loving feelings).
  • Sense of foreshortened future (e.g.: doesn’t expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span).

Hyper-arousal

Persistent symptoms of increasing arousal (not present before the trauma), indicated by the following…

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Irritability or outbursts of anger
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Exaggerated startle response

Duration

  • Duration of the disturbance (symptoms) is more than one month.

Functional Significance

  • The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, academic, or other important areas of functioning.

Concluding Part 1

So that completes one heck of a lot of work. I know the information was long and detailed, but that’s what we needed to paint an accurate picture of PTSD. And if you’re able to connect some dots (personally or for someone you care about), you can move-on to getting some help.

That’s what matters the most.

Be sure to stay dialed-in to chipur over the next three or four days, ’cause there’s lots more to come. Next, in Part 2, we’ll discuss the causes of PTSD and other relevant and interesting info.

image credit: sheknows.com

Would you like to read more chipur articles on the psychology of depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder? Tap here.