Psychology Sample Paper on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that a person experiences after going through dangerous, painful and life-threatening events (Yehuda, 2002). The first cases of PTSD were attested when soldiers fighting in the 1st World War developed traumatic disorders due to the agonizing conditions they experienced in the trenches. However, it was not until 1980 that the American Psychiatric Association acknowledged this disorder as a mental illness. This essay seeks to explore the causes, symptoms and treatment methods of Post-Traumatic Disorder.

Causes of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders

Different people have varying recover from trauma at different rates. Additionally, researchers have shown that people whose occupations are high-risk such as the army have high probabilities of suffering from PTSD (Ozer et al., 2003). People who have experienced the ravages of war are also likely to suffer from this disorder similarly to those who suffered child abuse. Examples of traumatic experiences include the death of loved ones, witnessing killings, involvement in war, tragic accidents, rape, violence and child abuse.

There are risk factors that heighten the chances of developing PTSD. Examples of these risk factors include past mental illnesses, drug and substance abuse, having insignificant support from friends and family and having suffered from child abuse in the past. Mental illnesses make people more susceptible to developing PTSD. Moreover, drug abuse and previous child abuse lead to either mental fragility or poor judgment meaning that a victim may not realize when he/she needs professional help. Additionally, if a victim is not afforded good support by his/her friends and family, his/her condition is likely to aggravate(Yehuda, 2002).


On the other hand, there are resilience factors that reduce both the probability of suffering from PTSD and the chances of an existing disorder worsening. Such factors include having constant help from friends and family, joining a support group or even learning to live with yourself by developing a coping strategy. Most importantly, acceptance of a victim’s troubles and subsequently seeking help has positive effect on their recovery (Keane, Silberbogen & Weierich, 2008).

Features and Symptoms of PTSD

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms can be widely categorized into four: cognition and mood symptoms, avoidance symptoms, re-experiencing symptoms and hyperarousal symptoms (Ozer et al., 2003). These symptoms can be experienced immediately after suffering trauma or much later in their lives.

Re-experiencing symptoms make the victim relive the traumatic experience all over again. Troubling memories unexpectedly come back to the victim making him/her experience feelings of fear, panic, terror and helplessness. Such memories come back through flashbacks, nightmares and frightening thoughts. For example, a simple action such as the clap of thunder can bring back memories of exploding grenades to a war veteran.

Avoidance symptoms are the attempts that victims make to avert memories of the traumatic experience (Bisson & Andrew, 2007). The affected person keeps off instances or things that remind him/her of the experiences. For instance, a victim of mistreatment by a doctor may avoid hospitals and doctors altogether even when they need them due to health problem s they could be facing.

Cognition and mood symptoms make victims feel estranged from their families, friends and even from their previous dreams about the future. They lose interest in activities they enjoyed before the traumatic experience and develop negative thoughts such as guilt and self-blame about themselves. Moreover, the affected persons may have trouble recalling important details of the traumatic event.

Victims may also exhibit hyperarousal symptoms. In this case, memories are not triggered. Instead, the victim is constantly reactive to things that may bring back the undesired memories (Ozer et al. 2003). The affected person is usually nervy, anxious and gets frightened easily. Feelings of anger, bitterness, and regret are also prevalent in this case. The person may have sudden outbursts. These symptoms make the victims unsociable and can cause complications at work or with friends and family.

Finally, children may exhibit symptoms completely different from those adults exhibit. Such symptoms include bedwetting even when the child has already learned using a toilet, forgetting how to speak, loss of appetite, being abnormally clingy to the parents and developing disrespectful behaviors (Bisson & Andrew, 2007).

Treatment of PTSD Using Drug Therapies

The basal treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is psychotherapy (Schiraldi, 2009). However, medication also helps to treat PTSD. Examples of drugs used to treat PTSD are antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and anticonvulsants.

Antidepressants help to reduce the symptoms of PTSD. In addition to reducing anxiety, they contribute to sleep problems reduction and improve the levels of concentration in victims. Fluoxetine depressants such as Prozac help reduce panic attacks in PTSD victims by raising the level of serotonin chemical in the brain. This is because low levels of serotonin cause depression.

Anti-anxiety medications also treat PTSD. These types of drugs curb anxiety feelings and other common complications. They are administered to victims who exhibit hyperarousal symptoms (Berger et al., 2009). However, anti-anxiety drugs can be addictive and can lead to drug abuse so psychiatrists recommend them for short term usage only.

Finally, anticonvulsants can also help in treating PTSD. These drugs serve as mood stabilizers for the patient. Anticonvulsants work by calming brain hyperactivity. Therefore, they can be used to treat bipolar conditions, migraines, and epilepsy in addition to stabilizing moods of PTSD patients (Schiraldi, 2009).

From the above discussion, the drugs mentioned above do not necessarily work for every PTSD case. It is important that a victim consults a qualified medical personnel so that his/her specific condition can be properly assessed before prescription of any medication.






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Ozer, E. J., Best, S. R., Lipsey, T. L., & Weiss, D. S. (2003). Predictors of posttraumatic stress disorder and symptoms in adults: a meta-analysis. Psychological bulletin129(1), 52.

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Yehuda, R. (2002). Post-traumatic stress disorder. New England journal of medicine346(2), 108-114.