Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is dramatic in nature because it starts with the association of an intense negative emotion and a traumatic event or events such as the type of things that are reported about on the news.
PTSD is the acronym for Post (meaning “after”), Traumatic Stress (meaning “results of a traumatic event”) and Disorder (meaning “it must meet specified requirements”). As you read, please keep in mind that though a person has experienced a traumatic event, they do not necessarily have PTSD.
PTSD is a mental illness that is initiated by, and is the result of one or more extremely intense traumatic events – not a brain chemical, as with depression or OCD. But, because of the incident, the brain is changed. Neuro-imaging testing consistently finds changes in the structure and function of the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex in the brains of those with PTSD. This can affect learning and memory which adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse and ongoing violence frequently tell me. They report that they had difficulty learning in school at least during the time they were being abused.
The symptoms of PTSD, which is an anxiety disorder, were first significantly noticed in the U.S. Civil War and were titled “Soldier’s Heart” due to the autonomic cardiac (heart) symptoms. In WWI the syndrome was called “shell shock” and was hypothesized to result from the brain trauma caused by exploding shells. But in 1941, civilian survivors of a fire in a Boston nightclub showed increased nervousness, fatigue, and nightmares. Then, in WWII a mixture of persons – both warriors and civilians were labeled with “combat neurosis” or “operational fatigue”. It was with the Viet Nam Vets that the concept of PTSD solidified.
The statistics vary as time and events change in the world. Obviously, Oklahoma PTSD stats increased with the occurrence of the Murrah Building’s terrorist attack. New York’s increased on 9/11/01.
The PTSD statistics increase around the world whenever terror or significant natural disasters happen such as the tsunami which recently occurred in Japan. My opinion, based on what is seen in my therapy room, is when civilians or warriors are in contact with terror, without specialized help, PTSD may develop and worsen. The warrior’s rate of suicide is very high due to the psychological pain of war and the resulting PTSD. The road to healing is shorter with the guidance of someone who knows how to get there.