Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder is characterized by a number of distinctive neurobiological and physiological changes. Researchers think that PTSD might be associated with changes in the central nervous system(CNS) as well as the autonomic nervous system. Theses alterations include such things as an altered activity of brainwaves, a decrease volume of the hippocampus, and an abnormal activation of the amygdala. Not surprisingly these two structures, the hippocampus and the amygdala are involved in the processing and integration of memory in the brain and the amygdala is also known to be responsible for coordinating the bodys fear response. Psychophysiological alterations associated with PTSD include such things are hyperarousal of the sympathetic nervous system, an increased sensitivity of the startle reflex, and sleep abnormalities.
Key hormones which help the body respond to stress are found to be at abnormal levels in individuals with PTSD. For example studies have shown that epinephrine and norepinephrine are higher then normal and the body continues to produce high levels of natural opiates after the traumatic event has concluded.
As mentioned earlier Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder is likely to occur with psychiatric disorders. Certain studies have shown that 88 percent of men and 79 percent of women who suffer from PTSD met the criteria for another psychiatric disorder. The psychiatric disorders most prevalent in men with PTSD include: alcohol abuse or dependence, depression, conduct disorder and drug abuse. In women the disorders include: major depressive disorder, simple phobia, social phobia and alcohol abuse. In addition to other psychiatric disorders, PTSD significantly impacts psychosocial functioning and can cause headaches, gastrointestinal complaints, problems in the immune system, dizziness, chest pain, and discomfort to other areas of the body.
Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder is treated with a wide range of psychotherapy and drug therapy. There is no one, specific program, but certain treatment programs have been known to be quite beneficial. The most promising treatments include cognitive-behavioral therapy, group therapy, and exposure therapy. Medications also help to alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. The most popular drugs used are the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which include Prozac and Zoloft. Drug therapy appears to be more beneficial to some, while psychotherapy is more beneficial to others. Research continues searching for the best combination of treatments to deal with the symptoms associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.