Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is the name of a psychiatric condition that can occur to high risk professionals who experience (A) a traumatizing event and (B) continue to have functionally impairing symptoms, that fall into four categories (C), for more than one month. Of note: seriously impairing PTSD-related symptoms begin immediately after the event may not appear until months or even decades latter.
Traumatizing event. A traumatizing event must meet the following conditions:
- It was a situation that was life threatening, where either the professional or someone he or she cared about could have been seriously injured or killed. In addition,
- The life threatening situation was completely unexpected. Example of these types of events would be unexpected, “freak” equipment failure (i.e. a grenade does not go off, a fire-extinguisher does not work), “friendly fire” – or seemingly unthinkable situations – such a child point a weapon at you.
- The result of this event is an individual or individuals who the professional cared deeply about is severely injured or killed. Often time, the event feels “unfair” or ‘unreal’ Like the wrong person was killed or injured – or this this event ‘should not or could not have happened. Many peoples immediate reaction to seeing the world trade Center towers come down was “that can’t be right” or “that can’t actually have happened”
- There is little or no time to think about or process this event. The professional need suppress any strong emotional reaction and continue to function competently in their job for hours, days, or even months after that event
Four categories of PTSD symptoms:
- Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms): Memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. Professional may feel the same fear and horror they did when the event took place. This may take the form of nightmares, flashbacks (seeing and experiencing the event as if it is happening again, right now in the present) Trigger (seeing, hearing, or smelling something that reminds professional of the event) causes intense psychological distress. News reports, seeing an accident, or hearing a car backfire are examples of triggers.
- Avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. Professionals may avoid crowds, because they feel dangerous; they may avoid driving if they were in a car accident or if their military convoy was bombed.
- Feeling numb: Professional may find it hard to express their feelings or even have feelings, positive or negative. This is another way to avoid memories. Professionals may have a hard time having positive or loving feelings toward others or may stay away from intimate relationships to avoid having positive feelings; professional may also find they are not interested in activities they used too enjoy doing.
- Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal). Professionals may frequently feel jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. They may get irritated or angry much quicker than prior to the trauma. Professionals might also have a your back to a wall in a restaurant or waiting room.