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Diseases & Conditions

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post Traumatic Stress DisorderCausesMedicationsPreventionRisk FactorsSymptomsTreatmentTypes

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder that usually occurs after some type of psychologically traumatic event. For an individual to be diagnosed with PTSD the symptoms must occur for more than 30 days and result in difficulty of day to day functions.

Causes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD is typically cause by some type of trauma including sexual, physical or emotional abuse. Other events that can trigger post traumatic stress disorder include exposure to war or a disaster, a severe accident, illness, drug addiction, torture, or being held as a hostage. PTSD can result in children as a result of bullying.

Medications for PTSD

There are several medications used to prevent post traumatic stress disorder. They include:

  • Alpha adrenergic agonists including the clonidine, Catapres and the prazosin, Minipress have been shown to reduce nightmares and hyperarousal.
  • Beta blocks such as the propranolol, Inderal work by blocking the effects of adrenaline on the amydala in the brain.
  • Glucocorticoids immediately after the trauma such as hydrocortisone have proven to help reduce the incidence of PTSD.
  • Opiates such as morphine used early on have shown a decrease in PTSD symptoms.
  • Antidepressants may also be used including bupropion and venlafaxine.
  • Anti-convulsants like Tegretol, Topamax and Ambien have all been shown to reduce some of the symptoms of PTSD.
  • The lamotrigine Lamictal reduces the times the patient relives the trauma. Valprioc acid, known has Depakene has also been used to decrease aggressions and flashbacks.
  • To help individuals experiencing sleep problems Serzone (nefazodone) and Desyrel(trazodone) have been prescribed.

Prevention of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Some medications such as propranolol, morphine and hydrocortisone have been shown to prevent the onset of PTSD. Early cognitive behavioral therapy can also reduce its frequency. Immediate support from family and friends encouraging the individual to talk about the event can also prevent the occurrence of post traumatic stress disorder.

Risk Factors for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Those who have served in battle are prone to PTSD. Women are more likely to experience this anxiety disorder than men. If the event was quite intense or long lasting there is a greater likelihood that PTSD will develop. Individuals who already have a psychological condition are also more likely to experience post traumatic stress disorder. Individuals who do not have friends and family to rely on for support are more prone to PTSD. Patients with relatives who have also experienced PTSD or depression are at a higher risk. Abuse or neglect as a child can also put an individual at risk to experience PTSD.

Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

The most prevalent symptom of PTSD is re-living the traumatic event either through nightmares or flashbacks. In addition an individual may have trouble sleeping, be prone to angry outbursts and seem hypervigilant. A patient suffering from post traumatic stress disorder may also undergo avoidance where there are persistent attempt to stop remembering any part of the traumatizing event. These individuals may also have trouble concentrating, can startle quite easily and have difficulty remembering the event. Physically the patient can have headaches, chest pains, rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, nausea, skin rashes, diarrhea, dizziness and stomach pains.

Treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Psychotherapy is one of the primary ways to treat PTSD. The therapies that have proven to be most effective include cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, training in stress inoculation, EMDR, and a combination of these treatments. Medications are also prescribed to help cope with post traumatic stress disorder.

Types of PTSD

There are 4 different types of post traumatic stress disorder.

  • Acute Stress Disorder: In this type of PTSD symptoms emerge no less than four weeks after the traumatizing event and last somewhere between 2 days and 4 weeks.
  • Acute Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: In this situation symptoms last more than 4 weeks.
  • Delayed Onset Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: With this type of PTSD it may be years after the trauma that symptoms occur.
  • Chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: In this situation the symptoms will last longer than 90 days however, there will be a break in the symptoms only to return at a later time.