Why do traumatic experiences lead to nightmares
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Stressful events are an integral part of life. Reliving through images, film-like sequences and nightmares affects many people. Attempts to stop thinking about what has happened often fail.
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one psychological reaction to a stressful event, an extraordinary threat or extreme situation. It occurs with a delay and the trigger lies, sometimes longer, in the past. The causes are, for example, accidents, crimes, natural disasters or armed conflicts. Those affected experience a feeling of fear or defenselessness again and experience a feeling of helplessness and loss of control.
The stressful events (traumatizing experiences) are divided into two forms:
- one-off traumatic experiences, such as accidents, natural disasters, etc. (Type I trauma)
- Frequently persistent or repetitive traumatic experiences, such as torture, abuse, and so-called human-induced trauma (Type II trauma)
In medicine, the terms post-traumatic stress disorder, post-traumatic stress syndrome and post-traumatic stress syndrome are used side by side. According to the international ICD-10 classification, the clinical picture is assigned to reactions to stress and adjustment disorders. Post-traumatic stress disorder can also arise from events that other people have experienced. The neurobiological process that takes place in the brain in a stress disorder has not yet been conclusively researched.
What are the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder?
A characteristic of PTSD is that the person concerned experiences the trauma they have suffered over and over again. A smell, sound or a picture brings it back to life and the person concerned does not notice that the event he perceived again is over. The hallmark is Perception of fear and helplessnessthat happened during the trauma. In some cases the memories return as nightmares again and show up in
- Overexcitability and
- Sleep disorders.
Others experience the time after trauma as a feeling of constant threat. They perceive the environment as unsafe and dangerous and there is permanent stress for body and soul. The other consequences are one high irritability, nervousness and difficulty concentrating. The patient withdraws, avoids social contact and feels guilty.
Many of those affected avoid situations that could be reminiscent of what they have experienced and suppress their trauma. This allows physical complaints occur that can lead to pain or other physical illnesses. Other ailments are chronic fatigue or stomach pain. In addition, there are digestive problems such as intestinal irritation, diarrhea or constipation. Sometimes eating disorders, breathing difficulties, asthma as well as headaches and muscle tension develop. In bad cases, self-harming behavior arises.
The Main symptoms in post-traumatic stress disorder are:
- Reliving the events of the past,
- Avoidance and suppression of all memories,
- Nervousness and irritability and
- the connection of feelings and interests.
To get over the negative feelings, those affected resort to alcohol, drugs or sedatives. The risk of suicide also increases. If those affected cannot cope with the trauma they have experienced, this will have a long-term effect on their own personality. Affected people have a constant feeling of insecurity and threat. They encounter everyone else through distrust and tend to be socially isolated.
In children, PTSD leads to regression in physical development. For example, children become bed-wetting again. Other complaints are headache or stomach ache.
What are the causes of post-traumatic stress disorder?
There are different reasons for PTSD. It arises as a delayed reaction to a traumatic, stressful event. These include, for example, accidents, natural disasters, war and terror, physical violence, sexual abuse or the stressful diagnosis of a serious illness.
However, not everyone who has experienced a stressful situation automatically suffers from a post-traumatic stress disorder. A risk factor is low age at the time of the event. The reactions of the environment to those affected are significant. It is easier when the environment reacts with understanding and accepts that something bad has happened.
A disorder doesn't develop the same way. Most people respond to a stressful event with one first shock. Perception is impaired. Affected people cannot react immediately to what has happened and feel numb. In contrast to an acute stressful situation, PTSD occurs first after a few weeks or several years on. Anyone who has experienced a trauma has to insert it into their own biography and process it mentally. If this does not happen, the event will be relived. External stimuli, such as noises or smells, immediately bring the experience to life. Affected people try to suppress or interrupt their memories. The result is fear and a great deal of attention to stimuli as well as false alarm reactions, through which the experience reappears.
Treatment of PTSD
Stress disorder is treated by a psychotherapy. A therapist informs the person concerned exactly about the clinical picture. Patients are given the opportunity to gradually approach the traumatic experience. In some cases, they are confronted directly with the experience. Together with the therapist, patients learn strategies through which the actual trauma and emerging memories (flashbacks) can be avoided. Medicines can also provide support. A rehab provides aftercare and an introduction to everyday life.
To Coming to terms with a PTSD different procedures exist. Which includes
- cognitive behavioral therapy,
- the psychodynamic process or
- the EMDR (Eye Movement Desentization and Reprocessing).
In the EMDR procedure, the brain is stimulated by stimuli, which processes memories of a traumatic experience. For example, the therapist shows his index finger in front of the eye of the person concerned while the person deals with the trauma. This rhythmic stimulation triggers certain processes in the brain.
Above all, patients need support to find their way back to a normal life. For many, the social environment, relationship and professional perspective need to be explored. Compensation may be an option in order to receive financial aid.
A stay in a rehabilitation clinic helps to overcome the trauma. Patients learn to reduce symptoms such as depression, sleep problems and anxiety and, after the end of the rehabilitation measure, can take part in everyday life again without restriction.
Special specialist clinics have specialized in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorders. Those affected receive help from specialists, psychotherapists and psychologists to calm down again. They learn to cope with the trauma in small steps and to accept their trauma as a normal protective reaction of their own psyche.
last changed on: 08/18/2020
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