Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
I was recently carjacked and want to know how I can deal with the
nightmares and fear that I have felt since it happened.
While it really won't make those fears and nightmares go away any
faster, many people find it comforting to know that this is a
perfectly normal reaction to a terrifying situation.
The thoughts of many victims of trauma are focused re-living on the
event. This may take in the form of recurring daytime thoughts,
intrusive images of the event, or feelings associated with it.
Dreams or nightmares of the event continue on at night. Other
common reactions include insomnia, decreased ablility to
concentrate, excessive worry and concern for one's surroundings,
being easily startled. Even though these fears are normal, it does
not mean that a woman should suffer through them without seeking
any sort of help if she desires it. Generally, victims of a crime are
referred to a counselor who can offer support.
If symptoms last more than a month, the woman may be
experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). To be
diagnosed as having PTSD, there must have been a serious threat
to the victim, in her opinion. Her response must be one of terror
and/or helplessness. She must be re-experiencing the trauma in
some way--by recurring thoughts, "flashbacks", dreams, feelings,
physical responses, etc. She must want to avoid reminders of the
event. She must feel anxious in some way.
While the condition is commonly associated with shell-shocked
war veterans, it is surprisingly prevalent among the general
population as well. One study, in large metropolitan area, found
about 11% of all women suffer from the condition, which may arise
from any sort of causes, including rape, mugging, natural disasters
Women have a higher rate of PTSD than men, when exposed to
traumatic situations. Men are diagnosed at a rate of 19% and
women at the rate 31% after a traumatic event. It is unclear why the
gender gap is present. Some psychiatrists have suggested that
the difference is due to women experiencing PSTD due to the
trauma of loved ones, and it reflects women's tendency to be more
connected in personal relationships. With many psychiatric
problems, women simply seek treatment more than men, so
perhaps the true incidence is the same. Women as a group may
experience more severe or multiple trauma due to traumas like
rape or domestic violence. Women have been shown to ruminate
more on their problems, whereas men will tend to distract
themselves with an activity. This leads to more depression in
women. Maybe it leads to more problems with post-traumatic
coping? People who feel like their actions matter during the crisis
and that they can do something to improve their chances of
survival are less likely to experience PSTD. Maybe women's
socialization as more passive is a factor in this gender difference.
Or maybe our smaller physical size really does give us fewer ways
to be pro-active in some crisis? When women do have
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, their symptoms may worsen
PSTD can be treated. Usually, psychotherapy (talking to a
psychiatrist or other mental health professional) is the cornerstone
of treatment. Sometimes medications will be added to treat
specific associated problems like depression, insomnia, or
anxiety. Someone who is experiencing these post-traumatic
problems, it is best for her to go for an evaluation. She can get the
help she needs, instead of reliving the situation over and over.