Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a term that developed, over time, from what was originally known as combat fatigue or shell shock. People experiencing terrifying events have a set of symptoms that are unique to that experience.

The official diagnostic criteria for PTSD are “exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence by directly experiencing, witnessing, or learning about the event to a close family member or friend”. In addition, PTSD involves “repeated or extreme exposure to the details of a traumatic event” This pertains to first responders who are constantly exposed to traumatic events.

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soldiers in counseling

Some of the symptoms associated with PTSD are as follows:

  • Intrusive memories of the event
  • Recurrent dreams or nightmares involving the event
  • Flashbacks of the event
  • Avoidance of the place of the event or things associated with the event
  • Negative changes in thinking and mood
  • Hyper-vigilance in normal circumstances
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Feeling detached from family and/or friends

Generally speaking, terrifying events might include: combat, childhood physical or sexual abuse, sexual violence, physical assault, being threatened with a weapon, an accident, fires, natural disasters, mugging, plane crash to name a few.

If the symptoms last over a month and a person can’t seem to get back to a normal life then treatment might be needed. There are new and effective methods for treating PTSD such as EMDR, psychotherapy, medications. Recent research has suggested that PTSD affects the brain in different ways and therefore treatment for this disorder is strongly recommended.

First responders are frequently exposure to traumatic events over and over. They can, over time, develop PTSD and not be aware of it. There are many programs that are designed to treat first responders and the unique set of circumstances that they face day after day.

Essentially, in the treatment of PTSD, one of the goals is helping the person learn how to feel safe again. This can be a longer-term treatment which involves facilitating a new set of beliefs that help the person to integrate and understand the experience.

Not all therapists have training in dealing with PTSD, and one seeking therapy should inquire about the training of the therapist in this area of treatment.

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For informational purposes only. Consult your local medical authority for advice.