Magazine article Corrections Forum

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Magazine article Corrections Forum

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Article excerpt

FACTS AT A GLANCE

An estimated 70 percent of adults in the United States have experienced a traumatic event at least once in their lives and up to 20 percent of these people go on to develop posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

An estimated 5 percent of Americans - more than 13 million people - have PTSD at any given time.

Approximately 8 percent of all adults - I of 13 people in this country - will develop PTSD during their lifetime.

An estimated 1 out of 10 women will get PTSD at some time in their lives. Women are about twice as likely as men to develop PTSD.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may develop following exposure to extreme trauma a terrifying event or ordeal that a person has experienced, witnessed, or learned about, especially one that is life-threatening or causes physical harm. The experience causes that person to feel intense fear, horror or a sense of helplessness.

The stress caused by trauma can affect all aspects of a person's life including mental, emotional and physical well-being.

Research suggests that prolonged trauma may disrupt and alter brain chemistry. For some people, this may lead to the development of PTSD.

Recognizing and Diagnosing PTSD

Three categories - or "clusters" of symptoms are associated with PTSD. A diagnosis may be considered if

1) A specific number of symptoms from each of the three clusters have lasted for one month or longer, and

2) The symptoms cause severe problems or distress in personal life, at work, or in general affect daily life.

These Clusters are evidenced by the individual:

- Re-living the event through recurring nightmares or other intrusive images that occur at any time. People who suffer from PTSD also have extreme emotional or physical reactions, such as chills, heart palpitations or panic when faced with reminders of the event. One or more of these symptoms must be present for diagnosis.

- Avoiding reminders of the event including places, people, thoughts or other activities associated with the trauma. PTSD sufferers may feel emotionally detached, withdraw from friends and family and lose interest in everyday activities. Three or more of these symptoms must be present for diagnosis.

- Being on guard or hyper-aroused at all times, including feeling irritable or sudden anger, having difficulty sleeping or a lack of concentration, being overly alert or easily startled. Two or more of these symptoms must be present for diagnosis.

People with PTSD may have low self esteem or relationship problems, or may seem disconnected from their lives.

Other problems that may mask or intensify symptoms include:

Psychological problems such as depression or other anxiety disorders, including panic disorder.

- Physical complaints such as chronic pain, fatigue, stomach pains, respiratory problems, headaches, muscle cramps or aches, low back pain or cardiovascular problems.

- Self destructive behavior, including alcohol or drug abuse, as well as suicidal tendencies.

Responses to trauma vary widely and many people who experience extreme trauma do not develop PTSD. However, for those who do, PTSD symptoms usually appear within several weeks of the trauma, but some people don't experience symptoms until months or even years later.

Risk Factors

Those at risk for developing PTSD include:

- Anyone who has been victimized or has witnessed a violent act, or who has been repeatedly exposed to life- threatening situations. …

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