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Overview Of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (Ptsd)

2225 words - 9 pages

Overview of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Description and History

Trauma and stress has been a part of the human condition since we evolved as a species. A “fight-or-flight” response to trauma and stress is a healthy reaction that is meant to protect us from danger. Whether from a saber tooth tiger attack, combat, or a terrorist attack, such events will certainly produce similar psychological effects. However individuals who develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may continue to feel tormented when they are no longer in danger. PTSD is not a new concept and we can see indication of this disorder as far back as The Bible (the Book of Job), the Mahabharata, Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. As the years passed, new names were given to this disorder. For example, names like, ‘Soldiers Heart’, ‘Estar Roto’, ‘Combat Exhaustion’ and ‘Shell Shock’. Perhaps the most infamous was ‘Shell Shock’. Before mental illness was understood, soldiers returning from war who were not able to recover were labeled as useless and weak. It was not until the modern warfare of World War I and the rise of modern psychology when experts realized the existence of a mental illness (Gersons, 1992). In 1915 Charles Myers coined the term “Shell Shocked” to describe solders that were fearful, crying and had persistent memory intrusions. The name ‘shell shock’ was given due to the thought that the explosions of ammunition, bombs, and concussive force were affecting soldiers. It was not until World War II and then the Vietnam War when researchers realized this problem could be an “anxiety disorder” rather than a short-term adjustment (Trimble, 1986). These wars were a huge boost to PTSD research, because you could find a large number of people suffering from the same symptoms within the same city, which meant a lot of ready data (Gersons, 1992). Finally, in 1980 the American Psychiatric Association (APA) added PTSD to the third edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) (Kuhne, 1988). PTSD was reclassified as an anxiety disorder and was applied to a broad range of traumatic stressors. PTSD brought to light that the etiological agent was outside the individual (i.e. traumatic event) rather than an individual limitation (i.e. traumatic neurosis). The means to understanding the scientific basis and clinical expression of PTSD is the concept of trauma (Duckworth, 1987). The DSM-III claimed a traumatic event to be a cataclysmic stressor that was outside the range of the habitual human experience. The original PTSD diagnosis was reserved for events such as torture, rape, war, the Holocaust, atomic bombings, natural disasters and human-made disasters (i.e. airplane crashes). Traumatic events are considered to be different from the stressors that constitute the normal vicissitudes of life. This difference between traumatic and other stressors was based on the assumption that, although most individuals have the ability to cope with...

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