In the wake of the recent forest fires, the devastating losses and destruction, the after-math leaves more than burnt soil to clear away. While many have lost loved ones, their existence or homes in the recent infernos, many of the survivors, helpers and fire fighters may now, as a consequence to their experiences of the traumatic events, exhibit symptoms related to PTSD.
PTSD, post-traumatic-stress-disorder, is the label that has been given to the symptom complex that may evolve from the exposure to, and experiences of a terrorist attack, active warfare, natural catastrophe, accident, or other events that may leave an individual severely traumatized.
Sufferers of such a trauma syndrome will exhibit characteristic symptoms of anxiety, overwhelming states of worry, fear, panic, phobia, compulsion, or depression. These may be expressed in the form of sleeplessness, nightmares, distressing recollection of experiences, irritation, increased anger, difficulty concentrating, emotional numbing, and retreating from social circles and family. Sufferers may become pessimistic about life, their future, may be disinterested in their environment, and may become aggressive and self-destructive. These symptoms may be as dilapidating that they may leave an individual unable to lead a normal life. Many people cannot return to, or take up a normal job, cannot live harmoniously with their loved ones, and find the day to day proceedings unbearable and unmanageable. Not infrequently is it that sufferers resort to addictive behavior and detach from their families.
Initially recognized in Vietnam -War – veterans, PTSD was only acknowledged and classified by the American Psychiatric Association as a mental disorder in 1980. However, the symptom complex of post-traumatic stress syndrome existed much earlier.
When the era of trains began and passenger transportation was taken to the rails, this innovative form of travel brought forth a new type of anxiety disorder. Travel by train was louder and faster than all prior forms of transportation, and passengers reaction to the noise, motion and accidents gave rise to a symptom complex soon denoted as the ‘Railway spine’. The sufferers however, where not the physically injured, but were eyewitnesses or unharmed victims of carriage collisions, complaining of physical symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, disturbed sleep, memory impairment, lack of the ability to concentrate, weakness, numbness and even physical pain along their limbs and spine, stiffness, headaches and neuralgia.
Likewise, soldiers of war complained of a very similar symptom complex that doctors described as ‘Soldier’s heart’. Civilians, having experienced and survived the World Wars were referred to as suffering of ‘Shell shock’. In today’s day and time the prevalence of this characteristic symptom complex has nowhere diminished. The symptomatology can be seen in victims of car accidents that are suffering of what is denoted as ‘whiplash’. Victims and witnesses of terror attacks and combat personnel of the wars of more recent times, and individuals that have survived and experienced natural catastrophes such as earthquakes or forest fires have shown forms of this specific cluster of similar symptoms that are part of the complex known today as ‘Post-traumatic-stress-disorder’.
The treatment for PTSD, as postulated by the conventional medical sphere, sees the use of medicinal and psychoanalytical approaches assisting individuals at alleviating their suffering and managing the syndrome. The use of CAM, complementary and alternative medicine, sees increasing numbers of patients successfully treated for their symptoms by meditation, relaxation, exercise therapy, TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), herbal medicine, homeopathy medicine and others.
The CAM therapies are holistic therapeutic approaches that take into consideration the totality of an individual. Physical, mental and emotional aspects find inclusion in the analysis of a patient and his or her suffering. CAM approaches aim to achieve amelioration and recovery of the patients’ state on all levels, the mental, the physical and the emotional. Hence treating the patient in his or her entirety, as a whole.
The recent wild fires have caused havoc to the lives of many, and have done irreparable damage. Those suffering of symptoms related to PTSD in the aftermath of these tragic and traumatic events should get help. Sufferers can be relieved of their dilapidating symptoms that impact not only the individual, but his or her family and closest environment. A recovery, to a lifestyle that is manageable can be attained. Sufferers should not suffer alone. There is help, and it should be sought!
First published at: Gentle Help for PTSD