Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
June 27 is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Day in the United States. We felt that it would be a good opportunity to start a discussion and learn about PTSD, so that we can support people who suffer from this mental illness.
Have you ever heard of PTSD? This acronym comes from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is caused by mental trauma after an individual experiences or witnesses life-threatening or traumatic events. For example, an individual may experience trauma due to sexual or physical abuse, or unexpected death of family or loved one, due to an accident, war or disaster. One might have strong feelings of fear, helplessness or disgust. Moreover, if one is having difficulty in his or her daily routines and interpersonal relationships, he or she may be diagnosed with PTSD. If symptoms do not persist beyond one month, it is called Acute Stress Disorder. After one month, it is called PTSD.
Symptoms of PTSD are generally divided into four categories:
Reliving: Traumatic memory is recurrent, intense and persistent. These appear as flashbacks, hallucination or bad dreams. When the memory is relived, it may cause mental pain (fear, anger, guilt, shame, horror) or various physical symptoms.
Avoiding: There may be an avoidance of a person, place or other stimuli, which may cause the recollection of the distressing memory associated with the traumatic event. This may cause the isolation from family members and friends, and there may be a loss of interest in activities one might have enjoyed in the past.
Negative cognitions and mood: There may be an inability to recall the traumatizing event and individuals may have negative beliefs about themselves or of others. For example, one might blame oneself or other people longer than necessary, or one may have distorted thoughts about themselves or others. These negative thoughts may lead to self-destructive behaviors.
Increased arousal: Individuals might be hypervigilant, and they may experience sleep disturbance. Also, one might feel easily irritated, startled, or be unable to concentrate. Individuals may complain of somatic symptoms such as high blood pressure, increased heart rate, muscle tension, nausea or diarrhea.
In cases of children under 6 years of age, we sometimes see that a child may reenact traumatic incidents in their play. Also a child who has been diagnosed with PTSD might show delay in the areas of toilet training, motor skills, and language development.
Symptoms of PTSD usually appear approximately within one month following the traumatic incident. Nevertheless, for some people, these symptoms do not surface for many years. Symptoms of PTSD will not disappear completely; however, by learning how to more effectively cope with the feelings caused by the trauma, along with possibly medication treatment, relief from the persistent and debilitating symptoms can be expected.
Little Tokyo Service Center provides various kinds of counseling services for people who suffer from mental health issues, including PTSD. If you have any questions, please contact Ayumi Omoto at 213-473-3035.