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The Main Characteristics Of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • Experiencing hyperarousal, that is, persistently high physiological activation”. The person who has suffered a trauma is easily startled, reacts with constant anxiety or irritability. This leads to sleep problems, states of high anxiety or experiencing strong somatizations.
  • Having involuntarily intrusive and distressing memories about the traumatic event. “Re-experiencings or flashbacks” also occur in which the person feels that they are reliving the traumatic event. This is one of the most specific characteristics of PTSD, it usually presents itself as sensations and images, and generates extremely intense discomfort.
  • Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the traumatic event; these stimuli may be external, for example, associated objects or places; internal thoughts or feelings close to what happened.
  • One of the most important symptoms in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is the dissociative state, since, as many studies indicate, it is a factor that predicts its development or is a commonly present characteristic.

The term dissociation describes a wide variety of experiences that can range from a slight distancing from the environment that surrounds the person, to more notable distancing from one's own physical and emotional experience. It refers to alterations in consciousness, memory, identity and perception of the reality that has occurred.

The two main dissociative phenomena, which in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder occur more persistently and recurrently, are:

  • Depersonalization: The person feels outside of themselves, like an external observer of their own mental or bodily process (e.g., as if dreaming; sense of unreality, of their own body, or that time passes slowly).
  • It is important to remember that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can develop at any age, even in childhood.

A specific Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has been described for prolonged and repeated traumatic exposures of an interpersonal nature (school abuse, child abuse, gender violence, kidnappings, war imprisonment, etc.) called Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or DESNOS (Complex Trauma and Disorders or extreme Stress).

Why Does Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Affect Some People And Not Others?

Vulnerability Factors:

  • Factors of the traumatic event itself: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is more likely, severe or long-lasting when the stressor is carried out by another human being (e.g., torture, rape, family violence, terrorism). The likelihood of developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder increases when the intensity, duration or frequency of the stressor increases and when it is experienced directly rather than simply observed or transmitted.
  • Biological factors: genetically determined neurobiological hypersensitivity to stress.
  • Psychological factors: the person's previous personal resources, the experience of previous traumatic events, the perception of uncontrollability after the event, the intensity of the perception of threat, the assessment made of the consequences of the trauma or the real intensity of the squeal, and previous emotional disorders or disorders.
  • Social factors: social isolation, family or relationship problems and economic or work difficulties.

Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

At psychological “Greatest Moments” intervention in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, cognitive behavioral treatments have empirically demonstrated the greatest effectiveness.

Some of the objectives that we set in our psychological treatments are to achieve:

  • Manage anxious symptoms appropriately and effectively, reducing hyper arousal and hyper alertness.
  • Modify the threatening and ineffective interpretation of intrusive and unwanted thoughts, images and memories related to the trauma. And change it for a more adaptive perspective, acceptance and understanding when thinking about the trauma – that is, starts a process of normalization.
  • Promote emotional management and emotional expression.
  • Confront the elements of trauma that promote intrusive images, through graduated exposure to feared internal and external stimuli. Exposure may include writing about traumatic events or nightmares, listening to recordings of descriptions of them, or other expository techniques in Clinical Psychology.
  • Change maladaptive cognitive strategies, such as thought suppression, rumination, emotional blocking or dissociation – which we explained above.
  • Identify and restructure beliefs before and after the traumatic event, and reprocess the traumatic event by creating a new narrative of what happened.
  • Facilitate the recovery of daily, social and leisure activities. Learn to manage avoidant behaviors that could be related to the traumatic event or its physical or psychological consequences.
  • Promote social and family support. Avoid isolation and facilitate the search for external help and support.
  • Improve the feeling of confidence and hope in the future.

A traumatic event is an event to which we could all be exposed, at some point in our lives. It won't always happen when we have the resources and skills to deal with it. But it is important to remember that, as decisive as the event, is the way we live it and adapt and, above all, the help we receive.

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