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Post traumatic stress disorder

Also called battle fatigue syndrome, post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD can occur in a person after severe physical injury/abuse. This entails lasting consequences from some kind of a trauma - physical or mental. Trauma could mean anything from death of a loved one to natural disaster to physical hurt or abuse.


Most often people facing a trauma may experience fear, panic, shock, anger, nervousness and these conditions settle down on their own after sometime. However a person experiencing PTSD suffers persistent reactions. It may even appear as if the reactions are increasingly getting stronger. This was more commonly noticed in war veterans and hence was referred to as battle fatigue syndrome. This condition is also noticed in people who have experience physical or sexual abuse. About 5.2 million people across the world suffer this condition.


Symptoms of PTSD

Symptoms of PTSD depend upon the duration of the illness or trauma. It may vary from person to person and also depends upon the type of abuse. In general people have been classified into three categories depending on how they react and behave.

Reliving or re-experiencing: These people relive the trauma repeatedly, as though it has just happened. Reliving can happen through flashback, nightmares and hallucinations. They experience additional stress when certain triggers remind them of the entire trauma.

Avoiding: The person tries to avoid places, people or things that may have caused the trauma or remind them of it. Such people may cut off contact from their family and friends and would prefer spending time in isolation. They may feel completely detached and may also stop enjoying activities once they loved doing.

Increased arousal: The person may experience increased emotions, worsening inter-personal relations, irritability, sudden outbursts of anger, trouble staying focused and difficulty in concentration. A few physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, muscle tension, increased blood pressure and rapid breathing may show up.


Though there is no particular lab test or diagnosis for PTSD, it can be diagnosed by examining the patient and understanding the conditions that might have led to this. With no relevant physical complication, the patient may be referred to a mental healthcare professional like a psychiatrist or psychologist. These professional use specially designed tests to identify the level of stress and offer treatment accordingly. Treatment will depend upon the level of disorder and will include therapy and medications. Depending on the severity, treatment may include:

Psychotherapy: Therapy will guide the person to develop skills so as to manage the stress. These include cognitive behavior therapy, group therapy, psycho dynamic therapy, family therapy and exposure therapy. Depending on the intensity and requirement, therapy is chosen for the person.

Medications: Medications include antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs. Depending on the severity, drugs are prescribed.

Shaken Baby Syndrome

Also known as SBS, shaken baby syndrome is a type of imposed head trauma. This trauma may occur from either throwing the child, or hitting the child on the head or by shaking the child too much. This is unlike regular head injuries because it can happen only if somebody harms the child. Many parents bring their children to the doctor very late, as they have not observed the problem in the infant in an early stage. SBS can also lead to severe brain injury, thus parents who leave their children with caretakers have to be on extra vigil for unusual symptoms. Depending on the duration of the harm caused the symptoms vary.


  • Lassitude and nausea and petulance are the main symptoms.
  • Poor sucking, decline in appetite and lack of smile.
  • Breathing trouble and seizures.
  • Unable to lift the head and to center the eyes or follow movement.
  • Pupil sizes may vary and stiffness will occur.

When the baby is shaken continuously, the head rotates in frenzy as the infant neck muscles are hardly developed and offer very little support to the head. The movement causes the brain to move back and forth inside the skull and thereby causes injury to the nerves and blood vessels and also tears off the brain tissue. As the brain hits against the inside of the skull, damage is caused to brain in the form of bruising and bleeding. If the baby's head is hit against any hard object, then the damage caused is even worse. With less damage caused the injury will heal within a period of time. If the damage caused is severe, then specific treatment has to be provided depending on the area of damage. Speech loss and hearing impairment has to be treated accordingly. The child has to be given special care and kept under constant vigil under the right care for the right kind of support.


EMDR

EMDR is an acronym for Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. It's an exercise as well as a psychotherapy used widely to deal with psychological issues, particularly trauma that may stem after military combat, physical assault, rape or car accidents. The aim of EMDR is to reduce the stress, resolve the trauma and shift from negative to positive outlook.


EMDR Principle

The technique was developed in 1987 by Dr. Sharpine Shapiro. She observed that eye movements can reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts; gradually the stress reaction too diminishes. Thus, the EMDR principle stresses the importance of using eye movements to stimulate certain parts of the brain to release emotional experiences that are stored in memory and deeply rooted in the nervous system. The aim is to help individuals liberate from the past and enjoy calm, productive emotional health. In other words, EMDR helps 'unlock' negative memories and helps the brain to successfully process the experience and march forward with a balanced emotional health.

EMDR is used in the treatment of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and trauma. EMDR is recommended as effective treatment for trauma in the Practice Guidelines of the American Psychiatric Association and in Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs and The International Society for Traumatic Stress. Addiction treatment is yet another area where EMDR is widely used. High degree of effectiveness has been shown in applying EMDR to conditions such as:

  • Trauma
  • Bereavement
  • Pain disorders
  • Disturbing memories
  • Excessive grief
  • Fear (Assault, crime, robbery, natural disaster etc)
  • Illness
  • Childhood abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Performance anxiety
  • Depression
  • Phobia
  • Low-self esteem
  • Relationship issues
  • Insomnia

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Bibliography / Reference

Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: November 22, 2019