Academic journal article Psychology, Community & Health

Train Accidents: Development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Train Drivers

Academic journal article Psychology, Community & Health

Train Accidents: Development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Train Drivers

Article excerpt

According to Marques Teixeira (2002), after the invention of the train and the occurrence of the first railway accident, occurrences of nightmares, somatization disorder and other symptoms considered typical of posttraumatic stress disorder were registered.

Several researches in other countries have reported physical and psychological impact of the train drivers involvement in accidents (Cothereau et al., 2004). However, in Portugal, was not identified in the studies conducted with train drivers witnesses of accidents and/or suicides, the possible development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The PTSD is a disorder belonging to the chapter of disorders related to trauma and stressors, whose diagnostic criteria involve exposure to a traumatic or a stressful event. The symptomatology of PTSD includes changes to multiple levels: recurrent and involuntary re-experiencing of the event, avoidance of stimuli related to the event, negative changes in cognition and mood, and changes in arousal and reactivity associated with the traumatic event (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2014). According to criteria presented in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5; APA, 2014), among the first symptoms are difficulties in sleeping or falling asleep, irritability, difficulties in concentration, hyper-vigilance and exaggerated alarm response. For the diagnosis to be made it is necessary that the symptoms of PTSD would be maintained for a period of time upper than one month and that the disorder causes clinically significant distress and social injury to the professional or in other important areas of the individual`s life.

According to DSM-5 (APA, 2014), if symptoms persist for periods of less than four weeks, it is ASD (Acute Stress Disorder), if the symptoms and diagnosis persist for three or more months, PTSD is said chronic, but if symptoms appear after six months of the traumatic event, it is considered a late-onset posttraumatic stress disorder. The prevalence of PTSD depends of the trauma severity, its repetition, factors related with the past, social support and the personality of the individual (Vaz Serra, 2003). A study carried out by Norris (1992) that examined the frequency and the impact of 10 potentially traumatic events on a sample of 1.000 adults, found that about 69% of individuals experienced one or more traumatic event in the course of their life, found also that in the 23% of the individuals involved in road accidents, 11.5% developed a post-traumatic stress disorder.

Several authors report that the degree of disturbance varies with the type of accident and how this traumatic event is experienced, and also that individuals who present peritraumatic dissociation (one of the possible consequences of exposure to a traumatic event) have more probability to develop PTSD (Chung, Werrett, Easthope, & Farmer, 2004; Ozer, Best, Lipsey, & Weiss, 2003).

An epidemiological study of PTSD made in Portuguese adult population found a prevalence rate of 7.9%, wherein 22.2% of participants reported that being witness of a serious accident or death constituted a significant traumatic situation. In a life time, 75% of the population is exposed to at least one traumatic event and 43.5% to more than one situation (Albuquerque, Soares, Jesus, & Alves, 2003). Other studies performed by several authors showed a relatively high rate of PTSD after a traumatic event (vehicle accident), in which about 15% of the sample showed evident signs of PTSD 90 days after the traumatic event (Irish et al., 2008; Kupchik, Strous, Erez, Gonen, & Weizman, 2007).

A study developed in Norway and Sweden demonstrated that all train drivers reported intrusive thoughts after an accident, concluding that "... repeated accidents experience should always be considered as a risk factor..." (Karlehagen, Malt, & Hoff, 1993, p. 816). Farmer, Tranah, O’Donnell, and Catalan (1992) conducted a study about the impact of railway suicides and psychological effects on train drivers, and verified that one month after the accident 39. …

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