Post-traumatic stress disorder
is a cluster of symptoms that is given to individuals who have experienced
a traumatic event (motor vehicle accident, mugging, hijacking, rape)
and who are experiencing a number of symptoms such as recurrent
and intrusive thoughts and images relating to the traumatic event.
These may take the form of nightmares or flashbacks and run through
the individual's mind "like a movie". A significant amount
of anxiety would tend to be experienced in reaction to these thoughts
or images. Individuals often attempt to avoid the images, places,
people or situations that remind them of the trauma, often out of
fear that it will happen again, but sometimes also just because
it triggers the memory, which is responded to with a great deal
of anxiety. A number of symptoms of physiological arousal such as
sleep disturbance, irritability and anger outbursts, an exaggerated
startle response and difficulties with concentration are experienced.
Individuals may also experience numbness and be unable to remember
important parts of the trauma memory.
PTSD is a condition that is highly responsive to CBT. Psycho-education
and imaginal exposure are central to treatment. Imaginal exposure
is required as the memory of the trauma itself is seen as the "non
dangerous stimulus" that individuals react to with the perception
of threat and the fear response. As a result, exposure to the memory
or anything that reminds people of the event, is done so that the
memory may be processed in such a way that it is no longer responded
to with fear and anxiety. Major changes in the way in which individuals
think about themselves and the world are also challenged using cognitive
therapy and in-vivo exposure is often also used for exposure to
external triggers that remind individuals of the event.