What is it?
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, more commonly known as PSTD. More often than not this particular mental illness is overlooked because people haven’t heard about it as much as depression or anxiety.
When a person feels threatened or endangered, nature dictates that he or she feels afraid. This triggers hormone-induced changes in the body that prepare a fight or flight mechanism as a response to the situation. This is known as acute stress disorder (ASD). When these symptoms last for more than a couple of weeks and develop into an ongoing problem, they are termed as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It develops in a significant proportion of individuals exposed to trauma, and if untreated, can continue for years. Military personnel working in combat situations are, particularly at risk. Its symptoms can affect every life domain including physiological, psychological, occupational, and social. However, not all trauma survivors develop PTSD.
Moreover, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), previously in the DSM-IV’s Anxiety Disorders chapter, has been moved to an entirely new chapter in DSM-V called Trauma and Stressor-Related Disorders. The DSM-V is a diagnostic and statistical manual that defines and classifies mental disorders to improve treatment and diagnosis. The decision to reclassify PTSD was made primarily in recognition of the diversity of post-traumatic clinical presentations, which may involve not only fear and anxiety, but also predominant dysphoria and anhedonia, anger and aggression, guilt and shame, or some combination of all of these symptoms. Unlike many other mental disorders in the DSM-V, which are diagnosed based on the symptoms someone is experiencing, a PTSD diagnosis requires that a person is subjected to a potentially traumatic event and then develop certain indicators of the condition. DSM-V defines a traumatic event as exposure to death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence. A thorough physical and psychological evaluation is essential in cases of PTSD, particularly where co-occurring disorders are concerned. Only a qualified psychiatrist can make the proper diagnosis. They can then prescribe appropriate medications and therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, which has proven successful in many cases of PTSD.
Furthermore, when a frightening experience causes trauma, it has somewhat the effect of brainwashing our brain. This particular set of circumstances is stored as one, which represents severe danger and distress. From that moment, any situation that resembles the traumatic event can trigger the same fear response. The emotions, which are stimulated, occur before an individual gets any chance to think about the situation. Also when the emotions are very strong, such as intense fear and terror, it can have the effect of completely overriding our ability to think rationally. It does not, however, stop us from acting on impulse.
Triggers and the impact on human lives
Common triggers include sounds similar to the traumatic event experienced by the patient. It could be fireworks that trigger fear in someone who has been through an incident involving gunshots. It could be a car screech that would bring back traumatic memories for someone who has survived a fatal accident.
In Pakistan specifically the soldiers fighting have been given some treatment for PSTD but the civilians, especially up north, have not been taken into consideration. Children especially who grow up in an environment of constant violence are prone to develop severe cases of PSTD without even knowing it. Diagnosing and treating mental health disorders needs to be taken up as a legitimate issue as there are not enough facilities catering to that.
What can YOU do? You as a citizen can educate anyone you know and spread awareness about the severity of the disorder. Other than that you can help identify symptoms in anyone you would know and direct them to get the help they need.