Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Also called “PTSD” and, formerly, “shell-shock”
What is it?
PTSD is a mental disorder resulting from a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, abuse, and seeing combat. While fear is a natural response to an alarming or uncontrollable situation, PTSD is fear even when that situation has stopped or been resolved.
Who gets it?
PTSD affects people of every race, age, and societal standing, but not everyone exposed to a traumatic situation contracts it. You are more likely to develop PTSD if you have a history of mental illness, few family and friends, watch someone else get hurt or killed during the event, disapprove of your actions during the event, and/or deal with extra stress afterwards like the loss of a job. Conversely, people who have a large support network and/or approve of their actions during the event.
What are the symptoms?
- Having uncontrollable flashbacks to the traumatic event
- Bad dreams
- Uncontrollable negative or frightening thoughts (other than those about the event)
- Staying away from place, objects, or situations that remind you of the event (for example, someone in a plane crash might refuse to fly)
- Feeling emotionally numb, strong guilt, depression, and chronic worry
- Hopelessness about the future
- Trouble concentrating
- Being easily startled
- Feeling tense or edgy
- Having difficulty sleeping and/or angry outbursts
What are the symptoms in children?
Very young children (>5 years old) temporarily forget how to talk, wet the bed, and/or attach themselves excessively to a parent or guardian. They may become extremely nervous or unreasonable if the parent/guardian is not present. Children (6-12 years old) act out the scary event during playtime, have nightmares, have difficulty making or keeping friends, and/or become more aggressive and edgy. Teenagers experience mostly the same symptoms as adults. They sometimes seek revenge for those they believe responsible.
When do the symptoms appear?
The symptoms of PTSD can occur immediately or months after the event.
What treatment is available?
There are two main types: psychotherapy (“talking” therapy) and medication. Psychotherapy attempts to remove the fear from the situation by re-experiencing it or talking about it. One method is exposure therapy, where the person is slowly acclimatized to stimuli that remind them of the event. Another is cognitive therapy, where the therapist and patient work to construct a rational reconstruction of the event (especially effective with people who feel guilt or shame about the event). The last common form of psychotherapy is teaching people how to calm their anxiety and fear; treating the emotions associated rather than attempting to puzzle through the event.
Zoloft and Paxil are the two medications most commonly prescribed to PTSD sufferers. They are anti-depressants, and come with the associated side effects (suicidal thoughts, nausea, agitation, reduced sex drive). Most people choose a combination of medication and counseling.
How do I help someone else with PTSD?
Firstly, make sure they get the right diagnosis and treatment. Make sure they are safe and do not think about self-harm or suicide, which happens frequently in PTSD sufferers. Other than that, avoid talking about anything relating to the event, unless they bring it up first. If they do, listen to what they need to say. Offer continuous support and never give up on them. Having a friend or family member with PTSD can be extremely stressful for you. They weren’t the person you knew before. Instead, they’re more irritable, isolated, frightened, and angry. You may want to build a support group around the person or find a counselor or confidant for yourself if you feel stressed.
Everyone please be careful reposting pictures and videos, even exposing yourself to them
Secondhand PTSD is a real thing and people can become traumatized, simply by the pictures or videos.
We saw this happen during 9/11 and it’s just has horrible as firsthand PTSD.
Please, just be careful. Guard yourself and help protect others.
Mental Illness Master Post #1 (Anxiety Disorders)
So, originally I was going to do one GIANT post about mental disorders. But then, while writing, I was like, “LET’S CHANGE THAT BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS YOU ALL NEED TO KNOW!”
I have decided to do this in different posts to make it more organized and not-so-long and etc.
While WriteWorld has an AMAZING post on mental disorders/illness, and I have also written an article about this for Yeah Write’s The Yeah Write Review Issue 02 (and you can BUY a digital issue by clicking on that link!), I figured The Writers Helpers needed one as well. This will be more of an informative post than a “How-to-Write” post, but research is key, right?
That being said, let’s get started.
People (especially adults) having an anxiety disorder isn’t so uncommon. In fact, it is estimated that around 20% of adults have at least one kind of anxiety disorder.
General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is an anxiety disorder that affects many. It is defined as an anxiety disorder where a person has excessive worry, anxiousness, uneasiness, or nervousness for a period of 6 months or longer (*to be diagnosed officially). It usually appears alongside substance abuse, depression, and other anxiety disorders such as PTSD. Therapy and learning ways of coping and relaxation are the common treatments for GAD. Antidepressants/anti-anxiety meds are usually used alongside these treatments for full effect. (For a forum, click here!)
Social Anxiety Disorder (also known as Social Phobia) is an anxiety disorder that makes the person fear being judged or embarrassed by/in front of others. It can become so bad that people with this disorder may avoid going to school or work for fear of being judged. People may only have the phobia for certain occasions, or they may have it in any social instance. It is genetic, so if your character were to have it, someone in the family would also have it. Medication and therapy is used to treat/control this disorder. (Want additional information/a forum? Click here!)
The following is part of the article I wrote for the Yeah Write Review Issue 02 (be sure to click the link at the beginning of this article to purchase a digital copy. The full article is on page 22!):
The two most common anxiety disorders are Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). With OCD, you need to be more careful not to generalize the entire disorder by, let’s say, making your character wash their hands for exactly a minute and forty-five seconds in order to ward off infection and disease. If you’re going to make your character possess OCD, research the different types of OCD and make the disorder essential to the character’s personality. The following are some of the different compulsions that are found with OCD: excessive counting, excessive fear of germs, checking and rechecking actions, and repeatedly washing hands. Symptoms of OCD usually appear by the age of thirty. These compulsions can cause great distress if the person is not able to follow their routine, and it can very well interfere with their daily lives. Persons with OCD are often in treatment with medication and therapy to control their compulsions, thus you must keep in mind that this will be part of your character’s daily or weekly routine. Treatment will generally improve a person’s symptoms of OCD.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is caused by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. According to PubMed Health, PTSD can occur at any age, and can be caused by the following: rape; terrorism; domestic abuse; prison; assault; and war. For example, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, many people who witnessed or lost a family member now experience fear of traveling to the point it will cause a panic attack. Panic attacks are not the only symptom of PTSD. Most commonly, PTSD is seen in veterans that often have nightmares, feel detached, or have flashbacks. Like OCD, you need to be careful not to generalize PTSD and give your character an actual reason to have it. For instance: if your character was raped, was he or she raped only once as a random victim, or were they tortured by a family member for years? Think about the repercussions and the severity of what led your character to have PTSD. PTSD often causes depression, feeling that there is no future, and avoidance of certain places or people. PTSD may need more research than another disorder due to the different symptoms (and there are many), severity of events that caused the character to have PTSD, and the different methods of treatment afterward.
As always, ask any questions if you have them! And ALWAYS, ALWAYS do research. You can NEVER research too much.