Feb 15, 2020 in Case Studies

Trauma-and-Stressor-Related Disorders

The primary objective of this research paper is to discuss the history, causes, symptoms, different types, prevention, treatment plans, and suggestions on how to overcome PTSD. PTSD is a mental disorder that develops in some individuals after experiencing some terrible event. The good thing is that although almost everyone experience fears after a frightful incidence, only a few people develop symptoms of PTSD. The history of distressing encounters dates back to the ancient times. The history of wars played a major role in describing the current known symptoms of PTSD. Soldiers experienced disturbing encounters during the battle, which affected their performance due to constant flashbacks of those shocking events. Such combatants had to receive psychological counseling before returning to combat. Different social groups, such as feminists and veterans, influenced the diagnosis of PTSD significantly. DSM has undergone a development from DSM-1 to the current DSM-5, which has helped to refine the diagnosis of PTSD. Although there is a lack of a precise description of the causes of PTSD, there exist some possible explanations. These possible causes encompass survival mechanism, adrenaline levels, and changes in the brain. The symptoms of PTSD include reliving the event, avoidance of the remainder situations, hyper arousal, and negative changes in feelings and beliefs. There are different forms of PTSD. These forms incorporate acute stress disorder, typical stress response, comorbid, and uncomplicated and complex PTSD. There are several prevention approaches to PTSD. Acquiring assistance from the family, friends, and finding a competent therapist play a major role in helping an individual avoid the negative ramifications of PTSD. Therapists use both short-term and long-term treatment goals to manage PTSD. Both phases are crucial for a total recovery from PTSD. There are various tips that a person can use to overcome PTSD such as acceptance, therapy, reducing stress, desensitization among many others. Effective understanding of PTSD can have a positive impact in its management.

Trauma-and-Stressor- Related Disorders

Trauma and stressor-related disorders include the exposure to a stressful or traumatic life event. One of the disorders in this category is the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a disorder that develops in some individuals after experiencing a shocking, dangerous, or a scary event. It is natural for a person to feel fear after a traumatic event. Fear precipitates several split-second changes in the individual’s body with the aim of defending oneself against danger or avoiding it. This ‘flight or fight’ reaction is a typical response meant to guard an individual against harm. Almost everyone will encounter a range of responses after a trauma, yet most people recover from these symptoms naturally. The individuals suffering from PTSD continue feeling frightened and stressed even when they are no longer in danger. The research paper will expound more on the history, causes, symptoms, different types, prevention, treatment plans, and suggestions on how to overcome PTSD.


The History of PTSD

Traumatic experiences exposure has always been a part of the human life. The attacks by the saber tooth tigers of the times long gone or the terrorists of the 21st century have probably resulted in same psychological reactions in the people surviving such violence. Written accounts give the first explanation of what people now call PTSD. The diagnosis of PTSD helped to fill a significant gap in psychiatry in that its etiology was a consequence of an event the person had suffered, instead of an individual weakness. The diagnosis of PTSD became influential from several social movements like the Holocaust Survivor Advocacy, feminist, and veterans groups. The investigation concerning the return of veterans from combat played a significant role in the creation of the diagnosis. Wars take an emotional and physical toll on the service people, families, and their societies. Thus, a combat history gives a reference to the current known history of PTSD.

Reports of psychological symptoms because of military trauma take their origins in the ancient times. The Franco-Prussia war (1871-1872) and the American Civil War (1860-1865) indicated the start of formal medical attempts to solve the issues of military veterans exposed to warfare (Kazak et al., 2004). The involved soldiers often returned to the war after receiving medications to control the symptoms. The American Psychological Association (APA) helped in the production of the first Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-1) in 1952. The diagnosis involved “gross stress reactions” of those who had symptoms from a traumatic encounter like combat or disaster. The diagnosis of PTSD has developed from DSM-1 to the current DSM-5 over the years.  

Causes of PTSD

Although it is not exactly clear why individuals develop PTSD, several possible causes have been suggested. One of these causes includes survival mechanism. PTSD symptoms are seen as an instinctive mechanism that is intended to assist an individual in surviving further traumatic encounters. Another cause of PTSD is the adrenaline levels. Studies reveal that individuals suffering from PTSD have abnormal levels of stress hormones that lead to the development of PTSD symptoms. The other cause of PTSD is the changes in the brain. The hippocampus is the part of the brain involved in emotions and memory. The hippocampus of people suffering from PTSD appears smaller. This change in size is associated with flashbacks, memory problems, fear, and anxiety. Thus, the anxiety generated by these people does not reduce over time, leading to the development of the PTSD-like symptoms. 

Symptoms of PTSD

There are four types of PTSD symptoms. One of the symptoms is reliving the event commonly known as re-experiencing symptoms. Traumatic experience memories can recur at any time. For example, a person may experience nightmares. They can also experience a flashback - a feeling of encountering the event again. The other symptom is the avoidance of circumstances that remind a person of the stressful event. For example, a person may avoid crowds because they feel dangerous. A person may avoid driving if he or she has a prior experience of a car accident. If it was an earthquake, a person might avoid watching movies containing earthquakes scenes. A person can even keep busy as a way of avoiding thinking or talking about the event. Another symptom is the negative changes in feelings and beliefs. For example, a person may lack loving or positive feelings towards other individuals and may avoid relationships. A person may also forget about parts of the traumatic encounter or avoid talking about them. More to say, a person can also develop feelings of mistrust by thinking the world is very dangerous. The last symptoms include feeling keyed up also known as hyper arousal. For example, an individual may find it hard sleeping, concentrating, and he or she may be scared of surprise or loud noise. 

Different Types of PTSD

There are five main types of PTSD. They include acute stress disorder, normal stress response, comorbid, uncomplicated, and complex PTSD. Normal stress response develops when a healthy individual, who has been exposed to a particular distinct traumatic experience in adulthood, encounters emotional numbing and bad memories. Such a person may also avoid relationships or develop the feelings of unreality, distress, and tension. Acute stress disorder is distinguished by suspiciousness, severe insomnia, dissociation, mental confusion, and panic reactions. Uncomplicated PTSD encompasses the persistent re-experiencing of the traumatic incident, emotional numbing, the avoidance of the stimuli related to the trauma, and the indicators of increased arousal. Comorbid PTSD is mostly linked to at least one other leading psychiatric disorder like panic disorder, alcohol or substance abuse, depression, and other anxiety disorders. Complex PTSD is common among people who have been exposed to prolonged distressing situations, particularly during childhood like childhood sexual abuse. These persons are frequently diagnosed with antisocial or borderline personality disorder or dissociative conditions. 

Prevention Strategies of PTSD

After surviving a distressing incident, many individuals develop PTSD-like symptoms at first such as finding it impossible to cease thinking about the event. The feelings of guilt, depression, anger, anxiety, and fear are rather common responses to trauma. However, the majority of persons exposed to some ordeal do not suffer from PTSD. Getting support is one of the prevention strategies to help the affected person to recover. This support can come from the friends and family who will listen and provide comfort. It may also mean looking for a mental health provider for a short course of therapy. Some individuals may also find it appropriate to turn for help to their religious community. Getting timely support and assistance may prevent usual stress responses from worsening and evolving into PTSD. Other people's support may prevent a person from relying on unhealthy coping mechanisms like alcohol and drug abuse. 

Short-Term Treatments Goals for PTSD

A therapist should refer or finish psychological testing to evaluate for symptoms of PTSD. The therapist should also help the patient to identify and list all the PTSD symptoms that cause impaired functioning and distress. The patient should also express feelings encountered at the time of the incident. The therapist should also explore the patient’s bio-psychosocial and chemical dependence history. If there is a history of chemical dependence as a way of reliving a traumatic stress, the therapist should assist the patient to agree and adhere to the treatment. The patient should also acknowledge the existence of poor anger control and be willing to implement anger control methods. The therapist should assist the patient in practicing relaxation training as a coping method for anxiety, anger, stress, panic, and tension. The patient should get rid of a destructive and negative thinking and replace it with positive thoughts. He or she should be taught on how to use desensitization techniques to decrease the emotional response to the distressing event. Lastly, the therapist can refer the patient to group therapy sessions focusing on PTSD.

Long-Term Treatment Goals for PTSD

A therapist should help the patient to lower the negative impact that the traumatic incident has had and return to the pre-distress level of functioning. Helping the client to develop effective coping mechanisms to perform normal responsibilities and healthy relationships is of great importance in treating PTSD. The client should remember the shocking event without being overcome by the negative emotions. Lastly, the affected person should end destructive behaviors that serve as denial and escape and implement the behaviors that enhance past events acceptance, responsible functioning, and healing. 

Tips or Suggestion on how to Overcome PTSD

The affected individuals can utilize several suggestions to overcome the disorder. First, the person should accept that he or she has PTSD. The trauma that the person has encountered must be acknowledged before the individual proceeds to the next step. The next phase involves looking for help from a qualified therapist. After several therapy sessions, the next step is to desensitize the person to the trauma. Then comes the step that includes reprocessing the individual’s memory by acknowledging that what has happened cannot be changed. Further, it is important to restructure the way a person does things to avoid being stuck in the same routine, probably by engaging in important activities. The next suggestion is the participation in stress-reducing activities such as exercise and yoga that help to reduce the adrenaline levels. The other tip is facing an individual’s fear with the aim of desensitizing them. The last suggestion is to let time pass because overcoming PTSD is a long process that requires patience and endurance. 


PTSD is one of the major conditions of the trauma and stressor-related disorders. Studies show that it is normal and natural for individuals to experience fear after undergoing a distressing life incident such as car accident, child sexual abuse, kidnapping, and many others. However, most people do not develop PTSD after encountering these life-threatening events. Thus, only a few people suffer from PTSD after experiencing a shocking occurrence, where the feelings of fear persist for a prolonged period. People have experienced distressing events from the beginning of human history. Accounts of psychological symptoms due to war trauma started in the ancient times. Before APA developed the DSM-1, the ancient diagnosis of PTSD was ambiguous. DSM-1 tried to refine the diagnosis of PTSD. With time, DSM underwent a series of development from DSM-1 to the current DSM-5. There is no precise description as to why people develop PTSD, but there are several identified possible causes. They include survival mechanism, adrenaline levels, and changes in the brain. The symptoms of PTSD are grouped into four categories. They encompass reliving the event, the avoidance of the remainder situations, hyper arousal, and negative changes in feelings and beliefs. PTSD exists in five different types. They include acute stress disorder, normal stress response, comorbid, uncomplicated, and complex PTSD. Receiving a timely and reliable support from family, friends, and the community members are one of the best prevention strategies of PTSD. The treatment plan for PTSD affected individuals involves both short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals help to address the acute phase of PTSD, while long-term goals aim at addressing the chronic part of PTSD. Tips for overcoming PTSD include acceptance, therapy, desensitization, reprocessing, restructuring, reducing stress, facing fears and letting time pass. These tips assist the affected individual to recover from PTSD symptoms successfully. However, the help of a qualified mental counselor is essential in the process of recovery. PTSD is a serious stress disorder that requires an appropriate cooperation and collaboration from all the stakeholders in its management. 


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