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Term: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder can be related to people who experience an event in their life that causes them to have the feeling that they are not in control and causes them to have an altered perception of life in a negative manner lasting past the time of the traumatic event. Essentially the person can experience PTSD during a major event in their life that has caused severe distress such as war or the death of a family member. It is important to remember that there is a difference between the normal experiences of shock to PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)).


The symptoms of PTSD are generally flashbacks results in a high state of awareness causing restlessness in sufferers of the disorder. Those with these symptoms often have difficulty interacting normally in society due to the anxiety caused by the significant event that triggered the original response.

  • Bad dreams
  • Flashbacks, or feeling like the scary event is happening again
  • Scary thoughts you can't control
  • Staying away from places and things that remind you of what happened
  • Feeling worried, guilty, or sad
  • Feeling alone
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling on edge
  • Angry outbursts
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself or others.

Children who have PTSD may show other types of problems. These can include:
  • Behaving like they did when they were younger
  • Being unable to talk
  • Complaining of stomach problems or headaches a lot
  • Refusing to go places or play with friends.

The US Department of Veteran Affairs lumps together the symptoms into 3 main clusters:

  • Re-experiencing. Examples include nightmares, unwanted thoughts of the traumatic events, and flashbacks.
  • Avoidance. Examples include avoiding triggers for traumatic memories including places, conversations, or other reminders. The avoidance may generalize to other previously enjoyable activities.
  • Hyperarousal. Examples include sleep problems, concentration problems, irritability, increased startle response, and hypervigilance.

What are the causes?

Including, but not limited to:
  • Being a victim of or seeing violence
  • The death or serious illness of a loved one
  • War or combat
  • Car accidents and plane crashes
  • Hurricanes, tornadoes, and fires
  • Violent crimes, like a robbery or shooting.

In the health field providing care for patients outside of the health setting is very important and for something like PTSD it is important to give that patient the tools to help them cope with this disorder. Based on the application it helps patient by providing the resources that are necessary to help understand and track any noticeable signs that may be associated with PTSD. Also as technology becomes more advanced we have learned that helping out others through support groups can help patients feel that they are not alone and they have others to ask for help and guidance on to help them not feel as if they are isolated (PTSD: National Center for PTSD).

Commonly used medications:

SSRI's as well as other mood stabilizers are the most common form of medication perscribed; with Zoloft, Paxil, and Prozac being the top three (as well as the most officially recognized effective medicines according to the US Department of Veterans). Other medications that can be prescribed often have the patient go in for bloodwork to monitor how it's physically affecting the body.
The most common medicines used for PTSD that require monitoring and/or bloodwork are:
  • Carbamazepine (Tegretol). Requires monitoring of white blood cell counts due to risk of agranulocytosis. Will self-induce its own metabolism and increase the metabolism of other medications including oral contraceptives.
  • Divalproex (Depakote). Requires monitoring of liver function tests due to risk of hepatotoxicity and platelet levels due to risk of thrombocytopenia. Target dosage is 10 times the patient's weight in pounds.
  • Lamotrigine (Lamictal). Requires slow titration according to the package insert due to risk of serious rash.
  • Topiramate (Topimax). Requires clinical monitoring for glaucoma, sedation, dizziness and ataxia.

Issues with treatment
Just like with any other disease/illness there are barriers to effective treatment. These can include but aren't limited to:

  • Fear of possible medication side effects including sexual side effects
  • Feeling medication is a "crutch" and that taking it is a weakness
  • Fear of becoming addicted to medications
  • Taking the medication only occasionally when symptoms get severe
  • Not being sure how to take the medication
  • Keeping several pill bottles and not remembering when the last dosage was taken
  • Using "self medication" with alcohol or drugs with prescribed medications\
Some of these can be avoided with something as simple as a pill organizer, making sure the patient is properly educated, and ensuring that the patient continues the proper course of treatment for them.

Web Resources:

Related Terminology: Depression, Anger, Railway spine, stress syndrome, shell shock, battle fatigue, traumatic war neurosis, or post-traumatic stress syndrome

Citations/References: Graphics from and respectively.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). (n.d.). Retrieved October 29, 2014.
PTSD: National Center for PTSD. (n.d.). Retrieved October 29, 2014. (graphics)

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Brain differences in sufferers of PTSD