Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)



According to DSM-IV-TR, PTSD surfaces after a traumatic event that may have caused death or has threatened physically the person or people involved. The event is being re-experienced over and over again, either as a flashback or a dream, which causes difficulties concentrating or difficulties falling or staying asleep.

Through the lenses of cognitive model, PTSD surfaces and is sustained due to the individual´s cognitive processes and autobiographical memories that views the traumatic event in such a way that creates feelings of immediate and severe threat. When this occurs, intense feelings of anxiety and arousal surface that accompany the conception of immediate and severe threat. Additionally, the current threat creates a specific sequel of behavioral and cognitive responses that may provide temporary relief (e.g. by not driving, I do not feel anxious about hurting anyone else), but it sustains the maladaptive way of thinking and prevents cognitive change from occurring.

An appropriate treatment for PTSD is Trauma-focused Cognitive-Behavioral therapy. Specifically, TF-CBT consists of eight components that are utilized to help individuals recover from trauma.

The first step involves the Psycho-education of the client, where for example he/she learns that his/her cognitive, emotional and behavioral responses are normal after experiencing a traumatic event.

In the next step the client learns relaxation techniques to cope with the physical symptoms of his/her anxiety.

The next two involve affect and correction of maladaptive and negative thoughts and feelings that would allow him/her to express all his/her emotions and feelings and start learning ways to exert some control over his/her emotions by changing his/her inappropriate way of thinking. Trauma Narrative is the next one that involves the narration of the traumatic event either in writing or verbally. This is an extremely important part of the treatment as it allows the client to fully express his/her emotions. In Vivo Exposure the client slowly starts being exposed to the act that caused the trauma, such as driving again, which would progressively inculcate a feeling of safety and also would teach him/her ways to cope with future traumatic events. In the last two steps the client completes co-joint sessions with his/her family members and lastly learns ways to enhance his/her safety and security and cope with future challenges in a more efficacious way.

TF-CBT is extremely efficacious in treating individuals that have experienced terrorist attack. Specifically, these individuals suffer from chronic stress, paranoia, hyper vigilance, etc. Through the steps of TF-CBT these individuals learn new ways to cope with their emotions, deal with past memories (in vivo exposure and trauma narrative), cope with their physical symptoms (relaxation), and overall reprogram their negative and maladaptive way of thinking with new healthy ones.

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