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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Page history last edited by Alyssa 8 years, 2 months ago


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PTSD is one form of an anxiety disorder. This disorder develops after an individual experiences a traumatic event that threatens their life or the lives of others.  Common events that can cause PTSD are childhood neglect and abuse, sexual abuse, invasive or traumatic hospital procedures, military/combat experience, terrorist attacks, serious accidents like car crashes, and natural disasters.  Someone how is experiences post traumatic stress disorder had persistent anxiety about the event that occurred for over a month. They re-experience the event and can have disturbing dreams, recollections, or hallucinations. Symbolic cues (such as a sight, smell, or sound) can cause a lot of distress to the individual. For example, a soldier who has just returned from war may hear a car backfiring, think it is a gunshot, and have a lot of anxiety and fear.


PTSD can be diagnosed at any age and is slightly more common in females. Without treatment only about 30% of those diagnosed with PTSD will recover. The signs and symptoms of PTSD can start soon after the traumatic event, or they can start months and even years later.  There are several factors that can cause someone to be more likely to develop PTSD. A combination of genetic factors/predisposition that make the person more likely to have an anxiety or depression, life events, and the individuals unique personality and temperament can all make a person more likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic event.


To be diagnosed with PTSD you must have at least 3 of the following:

  • Attempt to avoid thinking about or feeling the emotions related to the event
  • Avoid activities, places, or people that remind them of the event
  • Inability to recall the traumatic events
  • Distant and detached from other people
  • Limited ability to view or think about the future
  • Decreased participation in activities that they once enjoyed


The symptoms of PTSD are usually classified into 3 different categories which include intrusive memories, avoidance and numbing, and increased anxiety or emotional arousal. The symptoms of each are:


Intrusive Memories-

  • Flashbacks or reliving the event
  •  Nightmares or upsetting dreams about the event



  • Avoid thinking or talking about the event
  • Avoid activities that they once enjoyed doing
  •  Memory problems
  • Difficulty picturing the future
  •  Difficulty concentrating
  •  Difficulty keeping close relationships with friends and family


Anxiety/Increased emotional arousal-

  •  Irritability
  • Anger
  • Feelings of guilt, embarrassment, or shame
  • Self destructive behavior (excessive drinking)
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Being easily startled or scared


The role of occupational therapy in the treatment of PTSD is to help the individual cope with the traumatic event and their reactions to stimuli that remind them of the event. The OT can provide coping strategies to help the individual deal with the adverse emotions and reactions they have to symbolic cues. An OT can also train the individual and their family about how to adapt their daily living to avoid the triggers that could cause flashbacks and hallucinations about the event. An OT can also help the individual participate in meaningful activities by helping them use time management strategies and providing individual and group therapy sessions on relapse prevention. 



Champagne, T. American Occupational Therapy Association, (2010).Occupational therapy's role with posttraumatic stress disorderRetrieved from http://www.aota.org/Consumers/Professionals/WhatIsOT/MH/Facts/PTSD.aspx


Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Mental Health. (2011).Post-traumatic stress disorderRetrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/posttraumaticstressdisorder.html




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