Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

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22 March 2016

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Often people are traumatized by traumatic events that take place their lives. We seldom expect these events to happen so we often do not know how to react when it does happen, this can lead to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In this assignment is the definition of PTSD, the reason why South Africa has such a high prevalence of PTSD and also the methods of prevention of PTSD will be discussed. DEFINITION OF POSTTRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be defined as a response people have to traumatic events in life and can arise as an immediate, delayed and/or protracted response (Seedat, 2011). These events can be natural disasters, such as a tsunami or earthquake, or it can be ‘human-made’ like a hijacking or an assault, and even things like apartheid and xenophobia (Austin, et. al. , 2011:111) (Seedat, 2011). PTSD can lead to a person feeling helpless and having an intense fear (Austin, et. al. , 2011:111). To diagnose a person with PTSD, three main criteria of symptoms must be visible in the person namely the person must be re-experiencing the traumatic event, the person must have an avoidance associated stimilu, and the person must have a hypervigilance and chronic arousal (like having anger issues or not being able to sleep) (Austin, et. al. , 2011:111) (Seedat, 2011). These three symptoms can be in a minimum state, but all three need to be visible before a person can be diagnosed with PTSD (Austin, et. al. , 2011:111). All symptoms must be shown for a month or more and cause signifcant distress or impairment in social or occupational areas of functioning and if these symptoms carry on for more than three months it can be seen as chronic PTSD (Seedat, 2011). Different psychological factors can play a role in the development and maintanence of PTSD. These factors were identified by Edwards (2005c) as emotionally distressing and problematic processes of guilt, shame, grief, anxiety, dysfunctional and/or distorted cognitions, and various cognitive, affective, and behavioural avoidance mechanisms (Austin, et. al. , 2011:111).

PTSD is fairly common as approximately eight out of 100 people will develop PTSD (Seedat, 2011). Women are twice as likely as men to develop PTSD
(Seedat, 2011). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is very common in South Africa because of various reasons (Seedat, 2011). In 1997, the World Health Organization issued a study on the Global Burden of Disease. They found that mental disorders are second in burden to infectious diseases (Burke, Unknown). There have not been much studies of trauma disorders in SA, but the existing research suggests that South Africans, especially black South Africans, are still struggling with SA’s past, this being the apartheid which started in 1948 and lasted until 1994 (Burke, Unknown). In 1997, Market Research Africa and the Community Agency for Social Equality issued a study of face-to-face interviews with 3,870 adults who grew up during this time and the results were that 17% of people who had been exposed to trauma described their mental health as poor. There were 2 % of people who were exposed to violent events and 78 % of this 23% had one or more symptoms of PTSD (Burke, Unknown). Most people who lived through apartheid do not suffer any symptoms of PTSD, but there are those people who are still so undone by the atrocities of the apartheid era that they still suffer the symptoms of PTSD. The symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder have many different consequences for different people. PTSD can sometimes lead to drug and alcohol abuse. According to a report from the Health Department released recently, South Africa has the highest rates of alcoholism in the world (Burke, Unknown). METHODS OF PREVENTION OF PTSD

Some evidence suggests that intervening with medications or psychotherapy within a short time after the traumatic event may prevent PTSD to develop (Seedat, 2011). One possible method for the prevention of PTSD is the Child and Family Traumatic Stress Intervention (CFTSI). The purpose of this method is to prevent the development of PTSD within a 30 day range after experiencing a potentially traumatic event. In a study, a number of 7 to 17 year old children were randomly assigned to the intervention or to a four-session supportive Comparison condition. The results were that the children part of the CFTSI had less and less symptoms of PTSD which suggests that a caregiver-youth and early intervention for children exposed to a potentially traumatic event is a promising method to prevent chronic PTSD (Berkowitz, Stover, and Marans, 2010). Another possible method for the prevention of PTSD is memory structuring intervention (MSI). Studies have
been made on how trauma is processed which lead to the creating of MSI. In a randomised-controlled study, traffic accident victims who were at risk for PTSD were assigned to two MSI or two supportive-listening control sessions and the MSI patients reported a significantly less frequent arousal and PTSD symptoms than the controls (Gersons, Carlier, Lamberts & Kolk, 2001). CONCLUSION

PTSD can come forth when people are exposed to a traumatic event, and it can become a chronic disorder if it lasts for longer than 3months. In South Africa we have a high prevalence for PTSD. We think that there are more people who were part of the apartheid era, that have PTSD than what studies have shown. Not every person understands the severity of PTSD or knows the symptoms of PTSD so they don’t realize that they have it. PTSD is not only treatable but possibly preventable too. There is no definite prevention method as different people handle different situations in different ways. Thus it would be good if people were more aware of the symptoms more could be done to prevent PTSD.


Austin, TL., et al., (2011). Schizophrenia. In TL. Austin, et. Al. Abnormal Psychology: A South African Perspective (pp. 160-193). Cape Town: Oxford University Press South Africa.

Burke, L. (Unknown). The consequences of truth: Post-traumatic stress in new South Africa (continued). Retrieved April 20, 2012, from South Africa in Transition:

Gersons, Carlier, Lamberts & Kolk. (2001). Translating Research Findings to PTSD Preventionl: Results of a Randomized-Controlled Pilot Study. Retrieved April 21, 2012, from Spingerlink:

Seedat, S. (2011, 03 01). Depression – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Retrieved April 20, 2012, from Health 24:,11960.asp

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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (22 March 2016). Retrieved from

"Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" StudyScroll, 22 March 2016,

StudyScroll. (2016). Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 3 October, 2023]

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"Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" StudyScroll, Mar 22, 2016.

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StudyScroll. (2016). Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 3-Oct-2023]

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