Post Traumatic Stress
The most recent scientific evidence suggests that many of the symptoms a person
experiences for the first month after a trauma are normal. These symptoms can include
sleep disturbance, decreased concentration, anxiety, sadness, anger, irritability,
hypervigilence, re-experiencing of traumatic events, and disruptions in social and
work related functioning.
Symptoms that persist beyond four weeks following a trauma and that may be indicative
of a post traumatic stress disorder are as follows:
- Recurrent and intrusive recollections of trauma.
- Recurrent distressing dreams of the trauma.
- Acting or feeling as if the trauma is recurring.
- Intense psychological distress and/or physiological reactivity upon exposure to
cues that resemble the traumatic event.
- Efforts to avoid anything associated with the trauma.
- Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities.
- Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others.
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep.
- Irritability or anger
- Exaggerated startle responses
Exposure therapy and cognitive therapy are two recommended therapies considered effective for
PTSD. Exposure therapy for PTSD involves a gradual and graded confrontation of images and
situations associated with the trauma that are avoided because of the anxiety they elicit. Recent
researchestabli shing the importance of cognitive factors in the development and persistence of PTSD
support Cognitive Therapyapproaches for PTSD that test beliefs about the long term effects of the
trauma and that help the person to organize and complete their memory of the trauma. (Ehlers &
Clark, 2000.) These procedures appear to help individuals with PTSD to process and appraise the
traumatic experience in a more integrated and less distressing manner.