Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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Millions of people each year flee their country in order to escape persecution and conflict, seeking asylum as a refugee (Amnesty International Australia 2011). Many refugees present with and develop mental illness due to having experienced or witnessing events such as rape, torture, war, imprisonment, murder, physical injury and genocide, before fleeing their homes (Nicholl & Thompson 2004). Refugees are now accessing mental health services for the treatment of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) defined by DSM-IV-TR is “characterised by the re-experiencing of an extremely traumatic event accompanied by symptoms of increased arousal and by avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma” (Diagnostic and…show more content…
The hypothalamic piturity-adrenocortical (HPA) system that allows the coping with stress is also dysregulated in PTSD. Patients display abnormalities such as lower urinary cortisol levels, elevated lymphocyte glucocorticoid receptor levels and dexamethasone super suppression. The acoustic startle-response is a series of muscular and autonomic responses that alert the body to a threat. An exaggerated startle response is one of the diagnostic symptoms of PTSD. PTSD patients display a shorter period and increased change of the acoustic-startle-eye-blink reflex, significant loss of the normal modulation of the startle reflex, and resistance to habituation of the startle response (Friedman 2000). Fear conditioning is a mechanism that neutral cues associated with a traumatic event acquire the capacity to cause a conditioned emotional response in the absence of the aversive stimulus. Appraisal discussed by Friedman (2000) is a process that evaluate whether a situation is possibly dangerous. Coping, adaptation, and survival depend on the capacity of individuals to assess different situations accurately as pleasant, gentle, challenging or threatening. PTSD patients have lost this capacity and are much more likely to assess normal situations as threatening. This reaction to
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