Post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is one of the most misunderstood and misdiagnosed psychological conditions that exist. Often disregarded by the medical profession, treated with suspicion by health care and sometimes not even recognized by the sufferers themselves, it justifies the title given to it by David Kinchin as the “Invisible Injury”. It is, in fact far more widespread than many people think. One medical website claims: “PTSD drives more people to seek mental health treatment than any other psychiatric illness today. Yet it has been recognized as a diagnostic category since only 1980”
The official definition of PSTD is: “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat. “(National institute of health)
Though this is a comprehensive definition, it does not take into account the many other effects of PTSD. The definition fails to recognize that exposure to a perceived threat can also trigger PTSD. That means that if a person considers an event life-threatening or outside normal human experience, the effects are the same. It also fails to acknowledge a further condition called “Complex PTSD” where the sufferer is exposed repeatedly to extremely stressful circumstances such as those experienced by soldiers and members of the emergency services.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a psychological and emotional condition which renders the sufferers unable to cope should certain associated factors link the memory back to the stressful event first experienced. This is titled “re-experiencing” and can come in the form of recurrent nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks or mental pictures of the events often brought on by smells, sounds or similar . Often these symptoms seem so real that the sufferer believes the event is recurring. Lack of treatment or understanding from others around can throw the sufferer into a spiral of depression and mental health problems that could potentially destroy relationships, work and family.
To be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the sufferer is usually assessed using a set of six criteria.
1. The event experienced must have been one that involved threatened death or serious injury to self or others and the response is seen as fear, helplessness or horror.
2. A sense of “reliving the event” must be present.
3. The person must continually avoid stimuli that bring reminders of the event.
4. The sufferer must display heightened symptoms of arousal and “over-awareness”
5. The sufferer has had distress in social, occupational and relationship functioning.
6. The symptoms should have lasted over a period of time, usually a month.
Unknown from the internet
This story touched me as I was researching PTSD stories online. On a forum on MD Junction.com, I found a report from a girl who had been the victim of repeated sexual abuse from members of her family and circle of friends. She was, on one occasion, drugged and abused by someone she had known all her life. This trauma led to many dysfunctional and abusive relationships mainly with much older men. As she finally believed she had her life back on track, she was robbed at gunpoint while at work in a store. Her daily struggles with PTSD are documented below.
“My struggle with PTSD today*
After officially being diagnosed in 2004 I still struggle daily with PTSD, anxiety, severe anger issues, borderline personality disorder, panic disorder. My doctors are struggling to try to find the right mix of meds and treatment to help me out. I can’t work at all since the robbery in 2006. I’m currently attempting to get disability. I still have trouble with all relationships, whether it is family, friends, or a significant other in my life. I have blow ups almost daily at people closest to me over the simplest things. I don’t sleep much. When I do sleep I fight with the nightmares. When I’m awake I stay isolated to avoid triggers that cause panic attacks and flashbacks and that doesn’t work 100% of the time. If someone hugs me I feel like my skin is on fire where they touched me. I am currently on 11 medications total 8 of those are for the PTSD and other mental issues I have and the other 3 are for basic health issues. Still all these medications seem to work for a while then stop working. I feel as if I’m stuck on this roller coaster ride and will be forever. The highs and lows, the meds being upped, lowered, changed; it seems it will never end”
*Story told with full permission from sufferer.