Experiencing Trauma - Causes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Experiencing Trauma - Causes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Anxiety Disorders » Experiencing Trauma Causes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Experiencing Trauma Causes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

What You Go Through with Trauma

If youve ever experienced trauma, which is an amazing half of all women and a little over half of all men, you know that you initially go through at least short-term trauma. During the event itself, you probably felt:

In the days following the trauma, you may have felt anxious or fearful of being alone and worried about another catastrophe happening to you or those you love. Though you tried to not think about what had happened, you found yourself preoccupied with it, reliving it, or experiencing quick flashbacks or images. You felt tense, trembly, and had diarrhea or constipation, nausea, headaches, sweating and tiredness.

Depressed and anxious, you lost interest in your usual activities, including food or sex, and you couldnt think or concentrate on your work. Mostly, you walked around feeling sad, lost, alone, numb or unreal or in shock and disbelief. At night, you found it hard to sleep and awoke with nightmares. Though others tried to help, you felt isolated or detached from other people.

Nearly one out of every three men and women who served in Vietnam developed full-blown PTSD.

Consumed with guilt and self-doubt, you mulled over in your mind how you could have acted differently and prevented the trauma, and felt responsible for another persons injuries or death.

Why, you wondered, did you survive or come out of the ordeal better off than they did? You felt angry and irritated at what had happened, at what caused the event, and the senselessness of it all. Why me? you asked.

Why Me? Causes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Not everyone experiences all of these reactions to the same degree and some people cope better than others. Fortunately, most people get past the trauma within hours, days or weeks. With the exception of rape, with whom 80 percent of victims will experience PTSD, less than 25 percent of people exposed to a typical PTSD trauma will go on to be diagnosed as having PTSD that is, to continue for more than a month to re-experience the trauma, to avoid anything that reminds you of it, and to feel anxious and remain on guard for possible danger.

Though more men are exposed to trauma, more women develop PTSD following trauma, as the statistics following rape indicate women obviously being the majority of rape victims. The real numbers of PTSD sufferers are probably higher, as not all victims seek psychological help. And of those that do, some therapists may diagnose them as having clinical depression or GAD, rather than PTSD.

What makes a person vulnerable to developing PTSD? Several factors:

How intense and severe was the trauma? Someone who lost their home in a fire will get on with their life more easily than a person who saw their child murdered.

Is this your first experience with trauma or does it get piled on top of other horrific experiences? Clearly the more on your plate, the harder it is to digest new pain.

Do you have a prior history of anxiety and depression? If you are already emotionally unbalanced, life can knock you off your feet that much more easily.

Are you sensitive and fear prone with a harm avoidance personality? if you are, you will experience the trauma more intensely and weather the storm with more difficulty than those hardy and resilient.

How much do you exaggerate expectations that the trauma may recur and that your anxiety will never go away? The more so, the more fearful and troubled you will continue to feel.

How many people, if any, do you have in your life available to comfort you, to listen to you, to aid you and to take your pain seriously? The more people to turn to, especially a significant other, the easier it will be to work through the night-mare and get on with your life.

Do you have the financial resources for treatment and recuperation? Financial security may not buy happiness but it does buy psychological therapy, massage therapy, vacations, lawyers and other ways to get your life in order.

About 30 percent of people recover a year after the traumatic event. But about one third of people who experience trauma never recover from it, even with professional treatment. Why is a traumatic memory so hard to blot out of your mind?

Following trauma, the brain mobilizes all its forces and sends out various hormones, neurotransmitters and other substances that surge through the brain, actually changing the brains physical structure. The more extreme and long lasting the trauma, the more permanently it alters brain chemistry and a formerly outgoing, cheerful person can become a jittery, guarded, despondent person within a few months. Some pain can last forever.

Psychiatrist, Douglas Bremner, Dennis Charney, and colleagues reported that some trauma victims, including Vietnam combat vets and victims of child abuse, may experience physiological brain changes specifically, a shrinkage in the size of the hippocampus, a structure important to memory and learning as a result of the toxic levels of stress theyve endured.

Abusive parenting and other trauma also seriously deplete the brain of serotonin and set the stage for potential serious psychiatric illness. Dr. Michael Norden (Beyond Prozac) suggests that the following problems arise directly from low serotonin levels:

Increased irritability, aggression, impulsivity, violent suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, eating disorders, and sexual activity

Greater likelihood of chronic pain, seizures, hypoglycemia, and insomnia

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