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What Is Chronic PTSD?

Combat soldiers are at a high risk of suffering from PTSD.
Insomnia is a common symptom of chronic PTSD.
Article Details
  • Written By: J.M. Willhite
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Images By: Usmc Archives, Dan Race
  • Last Modified Date: 31 March 2014
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Chronic PTSD is a long-term disorder that one develops in response to a psychological trauma. Post-traumatic stress disorder is classified as an anxiety disorder that presents with a variety of signs and symptoms often dependent on the individual and severity of his or her trauma. Treatment for chronic PTSD generally involves medication and diverse therapies in an effort to manage symptoms and promote healthy coping skills. Individuals with chronic PTSD who do not seek treatment are considered more likely to develop chemical dependency and secondary medical issues, such as autoimmune disorders and heart disease.

The development of chronic post-traumatic stress disorder is generally an acute psychological response to a traumatic event. Witnesses and victims of violence, such as child abuse, rape and random violence, as well as survivors of both natural and man-made disasters, are often diagnosed with some form of PTSD. Individuals in certain career fields, such as the military, media, and medicine, who are likely to be exposed to violence and its consequences, are generally considered at a higher risk for developing chronic PTSD. Medical organizations, such as the Mayo Clinic, support the assertion that one’s psychological predisposition and genetics may also contribute to the development of chronic PTSD symptoms.

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Prior to establishing a diagnosis, symptomatic individuals may undergo a physical examination and extensive diagnostic testing to rule out the presence of any medical condition that may contribute to symptom presentation. In most cases, a diagnosis of chronic post-traumatic stress disorder is confirmed with the administration of an extensive psychological examination and if established criteria, as determined by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), are met. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder may be made if, as the result of trauma, an individual has demonstrated PTSD symptoms for longer than 30 days that significantly impair his or her ability to function normally.

The severity and presentation of one’s chronic PTSD symptoms is generally dependent on the type and extent of his or her trauma. Those with a familial history of psychiatric disorders, such as depression, may experience more pronounced symptoms than someone with no history or predisposition to psychological issues. Symptomatic individuals often experience insomnia or are awakened with nightmares and flashbacks of the traumatic event. Many may demonstrate pronounced personality changes, hyperresponsivity, and an intentional aversion to physical and psychological stimuli that remind them of the event. Oftentimes, one’s impaired concentration, apathetic demeanor and social detachment adversely affect his or her personal and professional relationships.

Though chronic PTSD symptoms may present consistently or episodically over the long term, the treatment approach utilized for this presentation of post-traumatic stress is relatively standard. Individuals with chronic PTSD will generally be given an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication to ease psychological symptoms. The form of therapy that may be used is usually situational and age dependent. Behavioral, cognitive and exposure therapies may be used to develop healthy coping skills and ease one’s aversion to trauma-associated stimuli.

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