The Disorder

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that an individual may experience following the witnessing of a life threatening event or traumatic experience such as military combat, war, terrorist incidence, road traffic accidents, imprisonment, natural disasters, torture, serious accidents, death of a loved one, physical or sexual assault.

An individual is considered to have PTSD when after a period of time following the traumatic experience their stress reactions do not return to normal.

The Symptoms

Individuals who suffer from PTSD often relive the experience through nightmares and flashbacks and have problems with sleeping. They may also feel detached from reality, have dreams or evasive thoughts about the incident, hallucinations, emotional numbness or lack of general response. These symptoms are likely to have a negative impact on the individual and affect their life and daily functioning.

People with PTSD can experience three different types of symptoms:

  1. Reliving the trauma
  2. Avoiding situations that remind you of the trauma
  3. Being guarded, irritable

As well as psychological symptoms, individuals may also experience biological changes as well.

The Treatment

The initial part of treatment will involve engaging in a clinical interview with the therapist and completing some questionnaires. This will help the therapist to understand what the problem is. Following on from this, the therapist will teach the client how their thoughts, feelings and behaviours impact the way that they view themselves, others and the world around them. By learning more about the impact of thoughts the client can begin to understand how their mood can increase the likelihood of recalling negative memories or events.

The questioning used within CBT will help the client to understand their distress and allow them to develop techniques for managing the intrusive thoughts/imagery and avoidance of the situations that may trigger the negative responses. This type of therapy also helps to desensitise the person to the traumatic event, reprocess the feared event and improve strategies to decrease the sense of threat.

The client will also learn to restructure their negative thoughts, understand their cognitive distortions and processes. By doing this they will be able to accurately perceive the trauma seeing the whole picture without the cognitive distortions.

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