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Why Are Some People Affected by Post Traumatic Strees Disorder and Others Are Not?

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WHY ARE SOME PEOPLE AFFECTED BY POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER AND OTHERS ARE NOT?

Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will suffer from PTSD. It can depend on a number of factors, one of them being the traumatic event itself. Why is this?

Butler (1996) describes PTSD as a breakdown of normal stress response. It is possible the biological and psychological way a person reacts to PTSD can alter what should be the body's normal adaptive stress response mechanisms to abnormally high levels (Autonomic Nervous System, hormones, noradrenalin). This can then lead to PTSD being triggered by sounds, smells, decor (is this reversible?). Moreover, according to Nolen-Hoeksema (2004), vulnerability to PTSD is down to the individual's social, biological and psychological factors along with the duration, severity and proximity of the traumatic event.

However, how can two people experience the same traumatic situation and have two totally different responses? Or how can someone exhibit PTSD symptoms simply by viewing a traumatic event on television, seeing pictures in a newspaper or hearing about it on the radio? Research has shown how pregnant mothers suffering from depression and/or abusing substances during gestation has an effect on the foetus which, in turn, makes the child emotionally susceptible to later experiences.

There are several factors that may contribute to an individual being more susceptible to the affects of PTSD. For example; someone with a history of mental illness perhaps within the family, previous anxiety disorder, maladaptive and/or abusive childhood or individuals who have encountered major losses in early life. However, exposure to some if not all of the above does not automatically result in PTSD.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM-IV) defines PTSD as a set of typical symptoms that develop after a person sees, is involved in, or hears of an "extreme traumatic stressor." The person reacts to this experience with fear and helplessness, persistently relives the event and tries to avoid being reminded of it. The Impact Events Scale (Horowitz et al 1979) assesses the emotional stresses involved, the symptoms like flashbacks, hyper-arousal, fear and emotional numbness associated with PTSD. When analysing the literature it is apparent that the aforementioned information is well known and documented, however there is little evidence regarding how some individuals can be severely effected by events, potentially causing devastating consequences i.e suicide and others may simply walk away unscathed?

Could it be that a well balanced, happy childhood makes someone more resilient to the emotional turmoil that can be PTSD? Rajia-Leena et al (2001) examined Palestinian children exposed to the violence of the Intifada in 1993, confirmed that cognitive capacity and activity serve a resiliency to PTSD in children from loving non-rejective families. Maybe their nervous system is wired differently, a sort of innate sensitivity? Could a person become emotionally immune to traumatic situations if they are exposed to them regularly; for example individual paramedics, firemen, police officers or armed service personnel returning from war zones? A psychological hardiness if you like. Research by Bonanno et al (2006) showed resilience

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