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Understanding psychotrauma

What is post-traumatic stress disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that can develop following exposure to a traumatic event.

His diagnosis, recognized in the DSM 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and Psychiatric Disorders) and the ICD 11 (eleventh revision of the International Classification of Diseases), is defined by specific criteria evolving for more than a month after the event.

PTSD alters the social, family and professional functioning of the individuals it affects, plunging them, in many respects, into often disabling difficulties. Their quality of life, and that of those around them, is greatly diminished, with devastating consequences on an individual level: stress, falling self-esteem, development of a resignation mentality, etc.

PTSD mainly revolves around 3 categories of symptoms.

Revivals

Reliving the traumatic experience: intrusive memories of the event, nightmares, flashbacks, etc.

Avoidance

Avoidance of cues suggestive of the traumatic experience: avoidance of thoughts, feelings, places, people, activities, etc. likely to recall the event.

Threats

Persistent perception of a current threat: hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response, difficulty concentrating, irritability, etc.

What is complex post-traumatic stress disorder?

When a traumatic event lasts for a long time or is repeated without the person being able to flee or protect him or herself, as is the case with sexual violence and abuse in childhood, harassment at school, violence within the couple, when the person is under the influence or dependent, or in war and torture, a second form of post-traumatic stress disorder can occur, called complex post-traumatic stress disorder (cPTSD).

domestic violence - thematic dossier

According to ICD 11, in addition to the symptoms of PTSD, the person with complex PTSD suffers from lasting and pervasive impairment of emotional, personal and relational functioning.

This alteration results in :

Difficulties regulating emotions, negative self-beliefs ("I suck∙le", "I'm worthless"), themselves associated with emotions like shame or guilt, disturbances in relationships with others that prevent building lasting relationships.

They are even particularly vulnerable in that their level of emotional maturity is not sufficient to enable them to understand the event and make sense of it. 

Post-traumatic stress disorder in children

For a long time, it was believed that young age was a protective factor against psychological trauma. However, recent scientific research shows that children and adolescents, just like adults, can suffer psychological trauma and subsequently develop PTSD or complex PTSD.

They are even particularly vulnerable in that their level of emotional maturity is not sufficient to enable them to understand the event and make sense of it. 

Symptoms are the same as for adults (reliving, avoidance, hypervigilance) plus :

  • → Enuresis
  • → Regression in his behavior
  • → Disinterest in activities previously enjoyed
  • → Loss or increase in appetite
  • → Withdrawal or more aggressive attitudes
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