Avni Gupta contemplates the impact of traumatic or stressful situations in one’s life. Many of us face severe stress such as injury, loss of close ones, violence, accidents, natural disasters, or assault experiences. These events often leave the individual with a pathological anxiety disorder, termed as “Post-traumatic Stress Disorder”, shortened to PTSD.
Take, for instance, an occurrence of a car accident. Due to the incident, it is possible for the driver, passenger, or even the witness to develop PTSD.
Numerous traumatic events are generally classified as interpersonal (such as sexual violence and physical abuse) and non-interpersonal traumas (e.g., natural disasters and road accidents) and their consequences.
Several studies have reported higher rates and more severe PTSD symptoms in those who have suffered interpersonal trauma compared to those who have faced non-interpersonal trauma.
Different groups of people experience differences in the manifestation of symptoms of PTSD. The prevalence of the disorder varies with age and gender, besides culture. Extremes of the age spectrum are more vulnerable to PTSD development.
Women are known to exhibit high vulnerability for PTSD in comparison to men. Psychological distress is more commonly reported from developing countries as a person’s reaction to trauma, and coping strategies are influenced by their culture, religious affiliations, and spiritual orientation.
The symptoms of PTSD may trigger as a result of physical or psychological harm to a person. Symptoms are known to develop not just when a person is directly involved in the situation, but even if they were a witness or learnt about it through someone. Not just victims but relatives of patients admitted in ICU have also been recorded to suffer from PTSD.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, symptoms could be shaped as follows:
For example, a person who met with a car accident avoids a particular road while driving next time. They may eventually avoid driving altogether. They may avoid conversations and exhibit discomfort when someone tries to talk about it. After weeks or months, they may still be haunted by the memory or dreams of the incident.
Researchers have found the earliest account of PTSD symptoms in the epic Ramayana, written by the great Indian sage Maharishi Valmiki, about 5,000 years ago. Maricha, a cousin brother of Ravana, was described to exhibit symptoms like hyperarousal, re-experiencing, and avoidance, after being hurt by Lord Rama’s arrow. However, the term PTSD was nowhere used.
The diagnostic category of PTSD was first proposed for the soldiers of the United States in the Vietnam war. Although commonly used in war situations, the concept of traumatic stress has changed over time.
PTSD is now associated with natural disasters like earthquakes, cyclones, tsunami, and fire disasters, and human-made disasters like riots, community violence, and terrorism, besides domestic violence, accidents, injuries, and diseases. Odisha supercyclone (1999), Gujarat earthquake (2001), and Bihar flood (2008) are amongst the many disasters which are known to manifest psychiatric aspects in affected people.
Nationwide lockdown due to coronavirus has been of assistance in preventing pandemic peak but has adversely impacted people’s mental health. The Department of Community Medicine, Vardhman Mahavir Medical College, and Safdarjung Hospital conducted an online survey to identify the prevalence of PTSD during the lockdown. The survey indicated that 28.2% of the participatory population suffered from PTSD in India.
Out of more than 230 respondents, 82% claimed to have physical reactions during the lockdown, such as sweating, troubled breathing, or nausea. 64% of the respondents reported the feeling of easy agitation and startling, while 56% claimed to have difficulty sleeping.
Psychopharmacology and psychotherapies, including cognitive behavioural therapy, supportive psychotherapy, eye movement desensitization, and reprocessing, are used to treat PTSD in Indian settings. Along with allopathic therapies, some also hold strong beliefs in indigenous therapies, which are perceived as more natural.
Ayurveda and yoga therapies are two major indigenous therapies practised in India. Herbal medicines, dietary restrictions, and physical exercises help in restoring the balance between mind and body.