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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that patients develop following an encounter with a traumatic experience. It is usually associated with the life-threatening experiences in which the patient had narrowly survived. This disorder is quite prevalent in genocidal scenes, as people get to witness their loved ones hacked to death. Even if such people eventually survive the ordeal, the sight of their relatives’ death hardly leaves them, and they end up experiencing severe stress as a result (Carlson, 2007). People who suffer post-traumatic stress disorder usually tend to avoid events or places that are closely associated with the scenes where they were affected. In case the incident occurs in a group of people, sufferers may become agoraphobic to the extent that they stay indoors. This disorder can completely change one’s life, especially the social aspect, in a manner that makes it impossible for them to live normal lives. Although the disorder has a long-standing history in the human life, it does not yet have formal criteria for diagnosis and classification. This has made it difficult to distinguish the disease from other disorders that affect people’s mental status. For example, depression presents itself with almost similar symptoms as post-traumatic stress illnesses and may be a source of diagnostic confusion. In fact, the disorder was given different names based on the geographical location as well as the affected populations. During the American Civil War, the disorder was quite prevalent among war survivors, and people began to associate it with the fatigue from combat. They decided to call it a combat fatigue and even tried to look for therapeutic intervention, considering that it appeared to last longer than normal fatigue. Survivors from the World War II who showed similar symptoms were said to have suffered from a “gross stress syndrome” and the Vietnamese solders returning from the Vietnam War were said to have suffered from a “post-Vietnam Syndrome”. These are only a few examples that show how the disorder was perceived differently, depending on the time and place where it became prevalent (Rothschild, 2000).

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The disorder can be classified as either simple or complex depending on the severity of its symptoms. The simple form of the disorder is associated with an episode of ugly scenes that appears to have less mental effects on the patients. On the other hand, complex post-traumatic stress disorder is associated with a long-lasting exposure to seriously traumatizing scenes. They tend to have longer effects on humans, and the effects could lead to total brain damage or other physical illnesses like severe headache. In the United States, the prevalent cause of the disease is highest among war veterans who survived ugly scenes of war. In addition, cases of rape also appear to be a major cause of post-traumatic stress disorder. However, African Americans have proven to have a higher risk of suffering the disorder, possibly due to their violent lifestyles. According to the current statistics, prevalence of the disorder is lowest among Caucasians and Hispanics. The high prevalence among most minority groups has been attributed to the lack of social support in case one encounters such disturbing scenes. The effects of racism are also considered to be a major cause of the disease, because racism has been associated with molestation and murder in the United States. As a result, the victims tend to blame themselves for their conditions, a situation that exacerbates their stressful condition. According to literature, this was particularly prevalent among military populations, because they did not seem to have the same fate in case they were faced with traumatizing situations. While their colleagues from majority tribes would get a lot of support from their families as well as governmental agencies, casualties in minority tribes did not seem to get the same attention. This significantly hampered their healing process causing to suffer for a much longer time and become more affected. However, this has since changed with the adoption of social tolerance in the United States. During the 2001 terror attacks, health institutions in the United States witnessed a resurgence of the disorder among survivors of the terror attack. However, counseling centers were quickly set up to help them cope with their conditions (Yehuda, 2001).

It is not a guarantee that whoever experiences traumatizing situations will develop post-traumatic stress disorder or even show physical signs of the disease. According to research, trauma causes people to lose a part of their hippocampus, the part of the brain that mediates long-term memory. As a result, they forget the incidents so quickly that they don’t get stressed for a long time. If trauma causes reduction in the size of hippocampus among sufferers, then they are less likely to suffer from the stress disorder as they lose memory of the traumatizing situations. This medical reality is important in understanding the effects and the extent of presentation of the disorder. It is basically the reason why persons exposed to the same trauma experience different severity of the disease. However, there is a general agreement that survivors of trauma are likely to become cigarette smokers, alcoholics, or even marijuana users. This seems to disappear if the disorder is properly treated, and patients are taken through thorough counseling. When the disorder is left untreated, it can lead to the development of far-reaching effects, including affecting one’s relationship with the family or general mental function. Among women, under-treatment has been associated with a disruption of reproductive cycle and poor general health that can give room for opportunistic infections (Maxmen, 1995). There is a variety of risk factors that significantly predispose people to the severe effects of the disease. However, all of them border on the frequency and severity of exposure that patients suffer. Other risk factors that are deemed important include young age, female gender, as well as problems with learning abilities. In young people, the disorder may have severe effects, because they have less experience in life and may be unable to cope up with the trauma. As for women, trauma causes them to suffer hormonal imbalance and this eventually leads to low cortisol levels in blood. As a result, they suffer longer, because cortisol has a role in relieving stress. So far, anti-depression drugs are used in management of this stress disorder, because they increase the activity of specific chemicals in the body (Satcher, 2000).

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In conclusion, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that patients develop following an encounter with a traumatic experience. It is usually associated with life-threatening experiences in which the patient had luckily survived. In genocidal scenes, this disorder is quite prevalent as people get to witness their loved ones hacked to death. The disorder can either be classified as simple or complex depending on the severity of its symptoms. The simple form of the disorder is associated with an episode of ugly scenes that appear to have less mental effects on the patients. On the other hand, complex post-traumatic stress disorder is associated with long-lasting exposure to very traumatizing scenes. However, it is not a guarantee that whoever experiences traumatizing situations will develop post-traumatic stress disorder or even show physical signs of the disease. According to research, trauma causes people to lose a part of their hippocampus, the part of the brain that mediates long-term memory. As a result, they forget the incidents so quickly that they cannot get stressed about the event any longer.

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