As the field of psychology as a whole developed throughout the 20th century, the identification of official psychological disorders significantly blossomed too. Though precursors of the ailments were observed much earlier in the aftermaths of both world wars, it was not until 1980 that post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, was included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Many factors may have contributed to this delayed addition, but the underlying concepts of PTSD did shift the perspectives of mental conditions into a very new field of understanding.
Before the definitions of trauma and post-traumatic stress were established, psychology had primarily viewed mental dysfunction as an internal weakness that was inherent to the individual. Through the novel ideas that PTSD introduced, external factors were proposed to also be responsible for psychological damage. Over its initial years of conception, the criteria for traumatic events may also seem outdated in contrast to modern standards, as a clear distinction was made between symptoms of war, such as torture and rape and painful life stressors like divorce, financial failure, rejection and serious illness.
A growing understanding
Scientific methods involve cycles of experimentations, reviews and revisions in light of new evidence and because of this, a great amount of progress has been made in the study of PTSD and related theories of trauma. However, a growing pool of evidence has led certain teams of researchers to suggest that particular aspects of the disorder have not been fully explored. In fact, many of these groups propose that there are enough exclusive symptoms to warrant the classification of brand new conditions.
For instance, psychiatrist Judith Herman first began to recognize and study uncategorized emotional and behavioral states in 1992. As others added similar findings, noticeable signs included the loss of a sense of safety, trust and self-worth. Individuals also suffered from psychological fragmentation and a tendency to be re-victimized. Most importantly, there is also a degradation or complete loss of a person’s self-awareness. In time, these special symptoms were given the title of complex post-traumatic stress disorder, or C-PTSD. In some circles, complex trauma is categorized along with Disorders of Extreme Stress, or DESNOS.
Complex Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
C-PTSD is considered a serious impairment that is a direct result of prolonged social or interpersonal trauma in the context of captivity without a possible escape, such as imprisonment or entrapment. The damage that affects the brain is typically expressed by a lack or loss of control, helplessness and deformations of one’s identity. Specific cases have been examined in abusive care-giving relationships, hostage situations and even survivors of fanatical cults.
Although a substantial degree of supplementary studies have demonstrated that C-PTSD is a sizeable issue in its own right, the potential disorder has not been officially included in the DSM despite being propositioned for some time. Fortunately, C-PTSD may be added to the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) if supporting research continues.
In addition to the nature of complex trauma and associated disorders, many healthcare professionals affirm that the current research and literature of PTSD is not helpful in the daily management of traumatized victims. Due to the immediate level of need, clinicians have commonly followed a treatment model that focuses on the reduction and stabilization of symptoms, the process of traumatic memories and emotions and the route of rehabilitation. Overall, these measures redirect attention to the individual and the therapeutic relationship instead of the trauma at-hand.
Victims observed with complex levels of trauma are also susceptible to a comorbid condition, which is the simultaneous existence of other disorders such as affective, anxiety, dissociative and somatoform disorders and substance addiction. The presence of multiple disorders further increases the complexity of the problem, as each disorder must be identified and treated at the same time in order to prevent future traumatic events, progression of a disorder or relapse. The treatment process for this, known as dual diagnosis, is offered by specialized treatment centers available across the nation and is highly recommended as effective disorder management.
Overall, these various studies show a lot more research needs to be done in the diagnosis, differentiation and diversified treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. The most important need at this time is to increase the amount of research regarding the effectiveness of different trauma treatments, such as dual diagnosis.
If you or someone you know is dealing with excessive trauma or PTSD, please seek help by contacting Sovereign Health of Arizona online or by calling us at 866-598-5661 for more information on our treatment programs.
Written by Sovereign Health Group writer Lee Yates
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