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Childhood Abuse Victims Found To Develop PTSD

Updated on November 16, 2014

The Basics Of The Disorder

A disorder originally emerged as a result of World War I and was known as “shell shock syndrome” as service men returning for the war were experiencing psychological effects of their service. These stress reactions to combat led individuals to have difficulties sleeping, walking and talking and were thought to remain in the “flight” stage of fight-or –flight response. Beyond the shell shock days it was found that war related distress remained to be a concern. Therefore, the term Posttraumtic Stress Disorder was coined in 1980 by the American Psychological Association (APA) and was entered into the DSM-III manual commonly used by treating therapists to identify psychological disorders.

PTSD Defined

PTSD or Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is a psychological diagnosis defined by the symptoms following a traumatic event. Symptoms include:

  • Increased startle response
  • Feeling on edge
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anger outbursts
  • Recurrent nightmares
  • Intrusive thoughts or flashbacks related to and feeling as if reliving a traumatic event which may include physical symptoms like smells and racing heart
  • Avoiding places for the fear of being reminded of the trauma
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Strong guilt, depression or worry
  • Lost interest in past enjoyable activities
  • Memory blocking of the past trauma

These symptoms are known to significantly impact the person’s ability to function for more that 6 months and in many cases are uncontrollable.

Current Knowledge About PTSD

Over the years and with continued research the effects of war were apparent – both physically and mentally, though not much has materialized in the area of preventative measures. Yet, can PTSD be prevented, or it is a ramification of overly exposed trauma to the brain, more that what our brains are intended to manage. Starting treatment as soon as symptoms impact your life shows a good outcome of those with PTSD.

Research is beginning to prove that PTSD does not occur solely in soldiers but also victims of abuse. Complex PTSD is a subset of the original disorder and defines the results of long-term abuse occurring in childhood abuse or domestic violence cases. Complex PTSD as the result of trauma carry on the same symptoms mentioned above and the same internal horror.


My Own PTSD Story

Confused and startled for years and I was not sure what my problem was. I have heard of PTSD but thought that was for wartime veterans. Though, spending my own time in the military and being a veteran, I had PTSD well before I swore in and charged through boot camp. The answers for me came when research revealed the effects related to prolonged or traumatic abuse resulting in the manifestation of the same symptoms of those who experienced war. Wow, yes, I have experienced my own war, yet I did not get medals of accommodations or a purple heart but did lay my life on the line many times. As the title states, one of my current symptoms that have not went away is an unnerving startle response. For me the noise does not stop. One could never imagine the embarrassment of someone just coming up to talk with you and without being prepared to be approached the next thing you realize is your heart hitting the floor pounding, mind blanks out and sense of confusion comes over you. All that for a simple “hello,” while internally saying “I hope they didn’t realize they just scared the crap out of me.” Now I need to walk away and sit for a minute and do some reality checking so that I can realize, No I am not in danger. That is just a touch of what I experience daily and what is even scarier is I never know when this will happen and better yet when I will have a nightmare, even though those are reducing. A slight picture into the world of PTSD, my story different from the rest, though the terror is the same.

Available Treatments

Treatment for PTSD is on the rise and studies are developing programs that promote the reduction of the experienced symptoms. It is imperative to begin treatment for the mentioned symptoms as soon as possible. However, less is known about if the prognosis is better for a war victim who seeks immediate treatment compared to a long-term abuse survivor that seeks treatment after the end of abuse. Some treatments that are common include talk therapies where the therapist can use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure Therapy (ET). In addition, medications have shown to help with acute symptoms of PTSD. CBT focuses on thought processes that may have changed due to the trauma and the work of the therapist is to help the individual replace those unhealthy thoughts with more adaptive ones. For example, a person may not be able to get out of their head the fear of constant danger, despite not being harmed in many months or longer. The therapist can help to identify the times when they were harmed and then allow them to process the time free from harm. In addition to that type of therapy, ER also serves as a beneficial option to processing painful and traumatic memories in an attempt to desensitize the memories. This type of treatment should only be performed by a therapist extensively trained in ER a re-traumatization can occur. Other psychological diagnoses that may accompany PTSD include anxiety, depression and substance use.

One Soldier's Story of PTSD


Realizing the widespread of PTSD and can touch anyone who has experienced a traumatic event such as war, abuse, car accident or natural disaster. Formerly found fame through the overwhelming effects on service men and women, PTSD is a diagnosis that describes the psychological response to trauma. Many times this disorder is not visible on the outside, though the terror that occurs on the inside can be too much for the individual to bare at times. Many lean toward self-medication through drugs and alcohol in an attempt to reduce the internal turmoil with the hopes of finding some sort of relief. Sadly, but substances are in the mind of the afflicted to be more socially acceptable than the skin crawling symptoms that are experienced with PTSD. Suggested early treatment is known to be a positive indicator in the reduction of symptoms. So if you or someone you know is or has experienced PTSD treatment is available and does help.


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    • Dr Bill Tollefson profile image

      Bill Tollefson 3 years ago from Southwest Florida


      You are welcome. I appreciate your comment on my work.

      Thanks for your comment back. Keep helping others to heal from PTSD.

    • mdscoggins profile image

      Michelle Scoggins 3 years ago from Fresno, CA

      Thank you Dr. Tollefson,

      I looked at some of your work and it is very impressive. I am early in my career as a psychologist, yet my work - both personal and with clients have led me to the realization that trauma touches a person's life through and through. Luckily, for the both of us we have shown strength to reach out and give what we have received. I hope to play my role in stigma reduction related to mental health and in general and by that I gladly write.

    • Dr Bill Tollefson profile image

      Bill Tollefson 3 years ago from Southwest Florida

      Hello mdscoggins,

      Wonderful HUB.

      I am sure this will help a lot of people and raise their awareness. Keep letting people know about PTSD and normalizing the condition. PTSD has a bad rap.

      I also write a lot on PTSD on my HUB Pages. Let's work together to help survivors that are walking around with PTSD know that there is hope.

      Blessings, Dr Bill Tollefson