Posttraumatic Stress Disorder


Many people have experienced a highly traumatic event at least once in their life. According to the statistics, seven persons from ten have gone through some significant trauma during their lifespan (, n.d., para. 1). A number of people are currently living with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In this research paper, the case study approach will be used to investigate the problem of posttraumatic disorder. It will track the development of a condition and describe the main attributes.

The Literature Review

In the given research paper, seven sources were used to reveal, discuss and analyze PTSD. The (n.d.) web page gives overall information about the disorder. Families and individuals undergoing psychological illness can find the general information here. The detailed list of causes, revealed in the American Psychiatric Association brochure helps define triggers of the stress disorder. Some treatment methods can be found here as well, but profound analysis of Taylor’s work (2004) “Advances in the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Cognitive-Behavioral Perspectives” helps to allocate effective approaches in PTSD treatment. According to his research, there is essential progress reached by psychotherapy use in mental disorder treatment. Julian D. Ford (2009) came to the same conclusion while analyzing therapy methods used in PTSD treatment. In his book “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Scientific and Professional Dimensions” he explores the results of various practices and their impact on the patients.

Stanley Krippner, Daniel B. Pitchford and Jeannine Davies (2012) in their book “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” and Gerald M. Rosen and Christopher Frueh (2010) in “Clinician’s Guide to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder” have revealed patients related factors of the disorder. Their works are crucial for the group of risk determination and potential protection of the ones at the most danger. Meanwhile, the system-related factor is outlined in the “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Malady or Myth?” by Chris R. Brewin (2003).

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Posttraumatic stress disorder is a dangerous, potentially grueling situation, developing when a person has been involved in or witnessed a life-threatening condition or violent assault.

Causes of Posttraumatic Stress Disorders

The list of extreme stress triggers may include the following: serious illness, violation, personal assault, natural disaster or an attack. As a result, “the disturbance, regardless of its trigger, causes clinically significant distress or impairment in the individual’s social interactions, capacity to work or other important areas of functioning” (American Psychiatric Association, 2011, para. 3). Among all stress triggers, the most influencing is sexual assault. The single accident or repeated one calls up despair, anxiety and powerlessness. However women are more likely to develop PTSD, anyone who went through a distressing incident can suffer the posttraumatic disorder. At the risk are the ones who: went through physical or sexual abuse in childhood or adult age, took part in combats, had suddenly lost the beloved person or got imprisoned. Other events, for example, divorce or loss of work, though negative, do not lead to posttraumatic stress disorders. Generally, a trauma caused by a third-party intervention or natural disaster is more likely to provoke PTSD.

Symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorders

Nevertheless, the reasons for developing PTSD are different, there are only three groups of symptoms. The first group includes the conditions of reliving the stress. It can appear in flashbacks into the triggering situation even while a person stays awake or long after awakening. The disturbing memories and nightmares about the traumatic situation are other symptoms of re-experiencing. Also, triggers can cause an excessive emotional reaction or physical hyperactivity. The second type of symptoms includes emotional numbing, frustration or evasion. A person suffering from PTSD may avoid places, thoughts, and people that provoke painful reactions and recall the memories. The person with PTSD reveals no interest in the world and becomes antisocial.

The third group of symptoms appears in increased nerve system excitement. The person may have concentration and sleeping difficulty, and experience irritation and paranoia. Although the list of symptoms is general, it may vary due to personal features. In some cases, “people who have experienced a significant trauma may have panic attacks when they are exposed to a trigger that reminds them of the inciting trauma” (, n.d., para. 9). While a panic attack, one may have other symptoms such as sweating, vomiting, flushing, tachycardia, shudder or difficulty breathing. The condition is worsening by the feeling of coming heart attack, madness or even death.

Other dangerous symptoms are depression and suicidal intentions. Many people going through the disorder are experiencing acute depression accompanied by feelings of guilt and loneliness. Depression is a dangerous condition, as it may lead to suicidal thoughts. If the person is too desponded he can use drugs or alcohol to try to forget the traumatic event. Notwithstanding, the misuse of drugs and over-the-counter medical supplies has the opposite effect. It is crucial to correctly diagnose PTSD as the proper treatment will significantly reduce the symptoms and eventually bring to the complete recovery.

How Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Is Diagnosed

To diagnose PTSD, the symptoms must be active for at least one month. Usually, people experiencing stress disorder are antisocial, sullen and sometimes incapacitated. They are going through repeating reliving, suffering from sleep difficulty or increased hyperactivity. Two or more of the symptoms listed above is the reason for diagnosing PTSD. The treatment of patients surviving stress disorder should include only those approaches which are suitable in the given case. Otherwise, the therapy will not be effective; moreover, the condition will exacerbate.

Treatment Methods

For the past twenty years, there was a significant breakthrough in PTSD treatment. “Physiological treatments, particularly behavioral and cognitive-behavioral therapy, are among the most effective interventions. Although these treatments are useful, they are not universally efficacious” (Taylor, 2004, p. XV). For some people these treatments are enough for the full convalescence, some recover partially and for others, these methods are completely inefficient.

Presently, psychotherapy and drug therapy are major treatment means. In particularly complicated cases, the combination of two can be applied. Psychotherapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy shows patients the distinctive manner of living thinking and reacting, on triggers that call up stress disorder symptoms. Psychological therapy can be built on one of the several approaches. Exposure therapy uses traumatic imagining of places, people and memories to help patients control and suppress the negative feelings. Cognitive restructuring makes the patient discuss his depressing thoughts, which are often wrong, aiming to substitute them with adequate and correct ones. The reduction of PTSD symptoms may be reached by various anxiety restriction techniques which are taught on a special training called stress inoculation (Ford, 2009, p. 276). For some, yet, undetermined reason, there are patients who respond to drug therapy, but not to psychotherapy.

For these patients, antidepressant medicines can be prescribed. As it is a psychiatric disorder, full recovery may be reached only if the complex of psychotherapy and drug treatment will be implemented. Thus, antidepressants may lessen physical symptoms and facilitate the life of a person experiencing stress disorder. When this target is achieved, psychiatric involvement should be initiated. The results of the treatment may be false if only medication therapy is prescribed. As Steven Taylor discovered (2004), “studies that have looked at long-term outcome indicate that discontinuation of medication results in a significant increase in the likelihood of relapse. By contrast, response to psychotherapy appears to be maintained” (p. 277). Moreover, the medication maltreatment may increase the symptoms and lead to concomitant side effects.

Patient-Related Factors of PTSD Development

Among the patient-related factors are individual vulnerability, genetic predisposition, and risk factors. Individual vulnerability is a particular reaction to the traumatic event that reveals differently in every case: “What is stressful for one person may be run-of-the-mill for another” (Krippner, Pitchford & Davies, 2012, p. 31). Risk factor refers to gender, women more often experience posttraumatic stress disorder than men.

Other factors refer to the difference in socioeconomic, educational and intelligence levels. Thus, the lower status is, the higher risk of stress disorder development appears. Also, the less protected the person feels, the more predisposed to PTSD he is. “One robust finding in both traumatic stress and general stress researches is that social support can play an important buffering role: Lower social support is associated with increased risk of PTSD” (Rosen & Frueh, 2010, p. 13). While higher social support is more likely to protect from PTSD developing. The patient and social-related factors are tightly interconnected. If an individual gets the required social support the possibility of stress disorder appearance reduces.

System Related Factors of PTSD Development

System-related factor includes society and its reaction to a given event. For example, the victims of the terrorist attack are sharing a common traumatic event but every person has their own symptoms. Additional pressure is caused by “intense interest in the human stories of those who escaped, those who died, those who were bereaved, and those who had to face the unimaginable consequences” (Brewin, 2003, p. 15), resurrects the painful memories. Thus, people who are going through posttraumatic disorder have no chance for a prompt and full recovery. Usually, group therapy with other victims becomes an effective approach in stress disorder treatment.

Gaps in Literature

The number of published and peer-reviewed literature on PTSD has been essentially increased over the past decade (Ford, 2009, p. ix). The stress disorder development and treatment are deeply analyzed in the brochures and magazines. While analyzing the literature, only one gap was revealed: the lack of information about preventive measures that can be explained by the deficiency of data.


Ways of Improvement of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Condition

After a deep analysis of posttraumatic stress disorder, I found a significant deficiency of preventing measures. It is obvious that disease prevention is always more eligible than its treatment. As an improvement mean, every social and medical institution must be obliged to provide detailed PTSD information. People living in an area of high seismological activity, in politically unstable regions and the ones living in potentially dangerous conditions should have additional social support in order to resist the extremely traumatic events. Those, who already have a serious mental illness, should be under constant psychiatric supervision. Finally, the increase of common social services will positively impact the complete recovery of those who experience stress disorders and the ones who are predisposed to it.


American Psychiatric Association. (2011). Healthy minds. Healthy lives. [Brochure]. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.

Brewin, C. (2003). Posttraumatic stress disorder: Malady or myth? New Haven: Yale University Press.

Ford, J. (2009). Posttraumatic stress disorder scientific and professional dimensions. New York, NY: Elsevier.

Krippner, S., Pitchford, D. & Davies, J. (2012). Post-traumatic stress disorder. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. (n.d.). PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder). Web.

Rosen, G., & Frueh, C. (2010). Clinician’s guide to posttraumatic stress disorder. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Taylor, S. (2004). Advances in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder: cognitive-behavioral perspectives. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

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