Dr. Ankur Saraiya talks about post-traumatic stress disorder and its treatment.
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As the name implies, PTSD develops after somebody has experienced a trauma. But, the idea of what that trauma is has evolved over time. It used to be thought that the trauma had to be so extreme that it involved a threat to somebody's life. Eventually, it came to be understood that it could involve witnessing an event that threatened somebody else's life. And, as more work has gone into understanding PTSD, it's becoming more and more understood that the trauma actually has to be looked at how it's experienced by that person. And, when talking about children who experience or observe trauma, the kinds of things that can serve as the initial traumatic event, can be a much broader range of things because the way that children perceive things is quite different than the way that adults do and therefore things that may not seem to rise to the level of trauma can actually be experienced as full fledged traumas by children and therefore result in PTSD symptoms. Without getting into full details of all the symptoms of PTSD, they can be grouped into three basic areas. They're areas of re-experiencing, which as it sounds like, are experiences in which the original trauma is re-experienced in some way. Either through flashbacks or through nightmares, or other intrusive thoughts. There's symptoms of hyper arousal in which the individual is over prepared for any kind of potential threats, so they tend to be very vigilant, they tend to be very alert to the point where it distracts them from paying attention to the things that are actually going on. And the last group are the avoidance symptoms, which, again, as the name implies and makes logical sense, these are the efforts on the part of the individual to avoid things and situations that can remind them of the traumatic event. In terms of treatment, there's actually a variety of different treatment modalities that can help with PTSD. The basic treatments are medication treatments and various kinds of therapy. There's medications to help with the anxiety, with the insomnia, and with specific symptoms. There's exposure therapy to help individuals gradually come to terms with the symptoms that came from the trauma. And there's actually an interesting treatment called EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, which is a very interesting neurologically based treatment in which the individual is able to process the trauma and get past it and there have been some very impressive and interesting results with EMDR. So, if you're someone who thinks you may be experiencing it, I would strongly recommend getting an evaluation to find out if any of these available treatments might be helpful for you.