Working in the field of Emergency Response I have seen and felt first hand the effects of posttraumatic stress disorder. It is not possible to respond to emergency after emergency and not be subject to some of PTSD’s effects. When I saw this topic in the list I felt compelled to use this opportunity to learn more. My hope is by increasing my knowledge, of a disorder so prevalent in my career field; I can recognize the symptoms in others and myself before there effect becomes devastating.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD as it is more commonly referred to, is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as an anxiety disorder. (American Psychological Association.) It has specific criteria that need to be met in order to be diagnosed. Foremost there needs to be a traumatic event of some kind. Examples of such events are as follows. Being involved in a situation where there was death or near death, sexual assault, or physical harm. There have also been cases were the stressor was second hand. Such as harm that happened to a close family member. People who have PTSD can exhibit a myriad of symptoms. Symptoms include flashbacks, which are a vivid recollection of the event. As well as anxiety resulting from recall of unwanted memories of the event. Many also experience a heightened sense of awareness known as hyperarousal, a state in which the body is prepared to respond to a threat.
Physical manifestations of PTSD are a result of the body’s natural response mechanisms becoming overwhelmed. This mechanism is commonly referred as the fight or flight mechanism a part of the nervous system. In the unaffected person, when triggered this mechanism cause changes in the body. Changes such as increased heart rate, increased muscle tone, as well as increased hearing. These changes take place in response to a perceived threat. However in the PTSD sufferer this mechanism has become damaged. The effect of the traumatic event has made it so that the fight or flight mechanism is triggered unnecessarily. This results in the body readying itself for conflict that is not actually present. This makes it so that the PTSD sufferer is in a state of hyperarousal when it is not needed. It is believed that the psychological effects of PTSD play a role in the chain of events leading to the hyperarousal state.
Additionally there are numerous psychological effects attributed to PTSD. Memories and recall of the event play a large role in PTSD. The PTSD sufferer is plagued by graphic recall of the event. Having to relive the event over and over. Moreover nightmares are common. This leads to efforts to avoid anything that can provoke a memory of the event this is known as avoidance. Avoidance can be as simple as trying not to think about the event, or not talk about the event. In other cases avoidance tactics may encompass avoiding people or places that are associated with the event. PTSD also brings about changes in attitude and personality in the affected....