Chronic PTSD – is there any hope?

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of those rare mental disorders, where a specific cause of the disease can be identified. The essential features of PTSD are certain symptoms which appear after a person has been exposed to acute traumatic stress as a response to some threatening situation. PTSD disorder causes a clinically apparent discomfort to the patient and deteriorates his sense of bodily well-being. If symptoms persist for more than three months, the disorder takes a chronic form, and becomes a chronic PTSD.

Symptoms of chronic PTSD can be grouped into three clusters:

A traumatic event must be re-experienced through one of the following ways:

  • In the form of recurring memories, images, thoughts about the traumatic event;
  • In a form of blurred sense of reality as if the traumatic event is back again and is real (which may include illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative reversed visions, so-called flashbacks);
  • Nightmares;
  • Exaggerated emotional discomfort in contact with the external stimuli that symbolize the traumatic event;
  • Intense physiological response to external stimuli that symbolize the traumatic event.

Isolation or emotional numbness, which manifests itself in all of the following symptoms:

  • Avoidance of activities, places or people associated with the traumatic experience;
  • Living with the feelings of shortened future outlook (that normal life has gone forever);
  • Avoidance of thoughts, feelings or conversations associated with the trauma experience;
  • Loss of the interest in life and activities;
  • A sense of isolation or emotional alienation from other people;
  • Inability to recall important aspects of the traumatic experience;
  • Feeling of emotional numbness.

Constant nervousness, which manifests itself in two or more symptoms, such as:

  • Various sleep disorders;
  • Irritability or outbursts of anger;
  • Difficulty in concentrating;
  • Hyper-reaction for startle.

Chronic PTSD may include additional symptoms that often cannot be found in acute cases. These symptoms may occur as the result of a chronic violence and can be manifested under the influence of a stress. The symptoms may include:

  • Failure of emotional regulation;
  • Altered states of self-perception;
  • Focusing on persecutors (including revenge obsession);
  • Changes in the system of personal values.

Taking into account the fact that in the absence of adequate treatment ordinary post traumatic stress disorder may become a chronic PTSD, as well as a highly traumatic nature of events, usually preceding the disorder, we can talk about the growth of the number of chronic PTSD patients. It is necessary to identify the patients with a high risk of chronic PTSD in early stages, and develop effective and economical methods of treating the disease. For example, the use of one of the cognitive techniques reduces the risk of developing chronic PTSD if the intervention begins within 14 days after the trauma.

Cognitive-behavioral techniques belong to the most studied types of psychosocial treatment of PTSD. They include a variety of therapeutic techniques – different types of the deep self-study procedures, cognitive restructuring, learning to control one’s anxiety. Partly due to the intensive research, cognitive-behavioral techniques are most often recommended as a psychosocial approach to the treatment of PTSD.