The Importance Of Preventing PTSD From Becoming Chronic

The importance of preventing PTSD from becoming chronic

People are at risk of experiencing an event in which our physical or psychological integrity is threatened. These events involve events loaded with very intense and sudden stress to which we are incapable of providing adequate emotional and cognitive processing.

Often, these situations have a catastrophic nature, as is the case of car accidents, war conflicts, acts of psychological and/or sexual violence, forced migrations, natural disasters, etc.; giving rise to what we commonly call traumatic experiences.
A trauma is an emotional alteration that results from exposure to these types of events.

Unfortunately, it is very common for people who have suffered traumatic experiences of high emotional intensity to also suffer from a psychological disorder called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In this article we will explain what the main characteristics of this disorder are, how to detect it and, above all, we will address the importance of preventing PTSD from becoming chronic.

How do we respond to traumatic experiences?

PTSD is not a minor problem nor does it affect only a few people in the world. The reality is that the stories of many subjects have been crossed by situations of a traumatic nature or of a serious or catastrophic nature. Studies on the subject estimate that, of people who have been victims of a traumatic event, 31% of women and 19% of men will develop PTSD.

Faced with these severe experiences, people usually respond in different ways. Some currents highlight fight, flight or freeze responses; while others indicate that people may respond to a traumatic experience with fear, hopelessness, or intense horror. Whatever the case, they all agree that the victim is overwhelmed by the stimulus that produced a very high peak of stress, to the point of exceeding their ability to emotionally manage that situation. Faced with an event that will result in trauma, changes also occur in our brain chemistry, altering the functioning of the secretion of certain neurotransmitters such as adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine.

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In cases of acute stress after a trauma, it is possible that people suffer from a phenomenon called affective anesthesia, which is a state of dissociation or dullness in which the person does not experience anything, any emotion, since the situation is so threatening to his integrity that he cannot process it. It is for this reason that on many occasions they are not even able to remember what happened at that tragic moment. Besides, They may have the feeling of being disconnected from reality or the world (derealization) or experiencing a distorted perception of one’s own body, feeling “out of oneself” (depersonalization).

PTSD: how can we identify it?

For some people, these emotional and cognitive states are transitory and are no longer present after a short period of time after the traumatic event. However, in cases in which this stress persists and is repeated or “triggered” in situations unrelated to the traumatic experience, it is likely that we will find ourselves facing a potential case of PTSD.

In addition to the symptoms and experiences described above, it is possible to detect a person who is experiencing PTSD when they suffer episodes of re-experiencing.

Reexperiencing is a phenomenon in which the person feels, thinks, and behaves as if the images and sounds of the trauma were happening at that precise moment. It is common for this phenomenon to be represented in movies as a flashback, fleeting scenes that allude to the reissue of that experience from the past. On the other hand, those who suffer from PTSD experience physiological hyperactivation, maintaining a permanent state of vigilance and alert. Furthermore, he systematically avoids any situation that could be related, directly or implicitly, to the traumatic experience.

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The importance of preventing PTSD from becoming chronic

According to the diagnostic manuals most used by mental health professionals, to diagnose PTSD it is necessary that at least four weeks pass with the previously stated symptoms.

The risk of PTSD becoming chronic lies, above all, in Life can become very difficult when the possibility of suffering an episode of re-experiencing is always latent. When someone suffers from PTSD for a long time, they begin to deploy a series of avoidance strategies to avoid any type of situation in which such episodes could trigger. However, even taking these measures, the episode can appear if prompt psychotherapeutic treatment is not received. Sometimes, they manifest themselves through night terrors—common in children—or nightmares that are linked to the traumatic event and against which the person has no ability to anticipate.

In PTSD, when it becomes chronic, the person develops countless behaviors to control the situation but, paradoxically, they never manage to control it completely but rather aggravate their discomfort. Avoidance is insufficient to solve the problem. Furthermore, this disorder correlates with depressive problems and anxiety problems, which must be treated specifically. For this reason, to avoid the chronicification of PTSD and relieve symptoms, the best alternative for patients who have suffered a traumatic experience is to start psychotherapeutic treatment.

At the moment, one of the treatments with the greatest scientific evidence is cognitive-behavioral therapy for this type of consultants. Likewise, some patients may benefit from pharmacological treatment indicated by a psychiatrist.