Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): A Complex Mental Illness

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PTSD might be dangerous but GIST counceling center can help

Post traumatic stress disorder is one of the most complicated problem attributed to several factors with a wide range of symptoms.  In GIST, there is a counseling center to help people with PTSD symptoms.

PTSD is a mental condition that people may develop after experiencing trauma like shock, life-threatening events, accidents, delivery, etc. Either people involved or witnessing the traumatic events may develop PTSD. After trauma, people feel frightened, desperate when having flashbacks and they try to avoid those memories. It is natural to feel afraid during trauma but if the symptoms last longer and interfere with ones’ daily life, they may have PTSD. The symptoms may appear over 30 years and around 30% of the symptoms wear off without treatment while others worsen and improve repeatedly.

Everybody can have PTSD at any stages of life. Not only soldiers but anybody  experiencing traumatic events can develop PTSD as well. Sometimes, having heard about others’ terrifying experiences can also cause PTSD. According to some researches, women are more vulnerable to PTSD compared with men.

The term PTSD was gradually developed based on several documents.  In 1952, the DSM-I (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) described “gross stress reaction” which is similar to modern term PTSD. In 1979, a USAF study used “dysphoria” to talk about PTSD-like symptoms. In 1980, the term “post-traumatic stress disorder” first appeared in a presentation to Committee of Reactive Disorders. A year later, DSM-III started using the term posttraumatic stress disorder. The experiences and conditions of U.S. military veterans in Vietnam War notably contributed to the term.

Patients with PTSD can experience various symptoms. PTSD’s symptoms may appear 3 months from the trauma, linger more than 1 month and severe enough to interfere with daily life. “PTSD’s symptoms are categoried into 3 main types: re-experiencing trauma through repeated dreams or thoughts; trying to avoid trauma-related situations or become insensitive; the autonomic nervous system is overexpressed, lack of concentration, sleep disorders, and irritation” said the counselor.

Avoidance is another symptom of PTSD. Though avoidance is natural reaction  it can upset people as well as affect their life when it becomes severe. There are two main types of avoidance: emotional avoidance and avoiding reminders. During emotional avoidance, people try to forget their thoughts or emotions towards a trauma and it is internal to those people. However, reminders avoidance is behavioral avoidance in which they try to elude people, places, sounds or smells evoking the traumatic events.

Additionally, people with PTSD may develop some other symptoms.  For example, they may have insomnia, easily get angry and are hypersensitive to potential risks. They even forget some parts of the event and are always distracted. Patients may also experience physical symptoms like sweating, shaking, headaches, dizziness, stomach problems, pains, a weakened immune system resulting in easy infections.

PTSD can be treated using both medications and psychotherapies but the most important thing is to support and encourage them. Medications used to treat PTSD are similar to those for depression or anxiety. Antidepressant medications include SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). SSRIs are more popular in treating PTSD symptoms. These drugs will be prescribed for 8 weeks and if it works, patients should continue using them in one year. A from GIST counceling center said “It is also helpful to reconstruct the trauma using my response and catharsis through counseling”.

Psychotherapies include three main types: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) and support and advice. CBT aims to change patients thoughts and actions towards the trauma. The therapist will talk to patients to help them control their fear and distress and encourage them to restart avoided activities. The therapy comprises of 8 to 12 weekly sessions and each session is from 60 to 90 minutes. In EMDR, therapist moves their finger to evoke eye movements while recall the trauma in detail. Above all, support and advice is still the most necessary things to comfort patients.

GIST counseling center provides a simple psychological test to examine members’ situation. On the counseling center web page, there is a PTSD questionnaire in Korean. There are 22 questions and people have to choose which answers find them well. After, the test will issue your results immediately. “However, it is a simple test, in some cases, an in-depth examination by a professional counselor is required depending on the test results” said the counselor. Counselor A also mentioned that the center helped anyone diagnosed with PTSD with both medication and psychotherapy at external psychiatry hospitals.

PTSD is a complicated mental illness that affects people at all ages and nationalities. The negative emotions might overwhelm people and result in some other conditions like drug/ alcohol abuse, obesity, etc. More and more people are suffering from PTSD without noticing especially in such situation. This is an era when both physical health and mental health need to be cared about.