Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder vs. Other Anxiety Disorders

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder vs. Other Anxiety Disorders

Nicole Higginbotham

Anxiety disorders are treated with cognitive behavioral therapy and sometimes pharmaceuticals. Post-traumatic stress disorder has a similar treatment, but there are also a few differences in how the treatment is handled. “Behavior therapy has much in common with other psychological therapies, particularly those that tend to be brief and directive, [and] in some cases, behavior therapy has borrowed concepts and methods from other systems” (Wedding, D., & Corsini, R., 2011).  This kind of therapy is used to treat many different disorders, especially anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and depression.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder vs. Other Anxiety Disorders

Behavioral therapy is used to help people learn habits that will promote positive behavior and enhance their lifestyles. The three main approaches to behavioral therapy are applied behavior analysis, a neobehavioristic medicational stimulus or response model, and social-cognitive theory (Wedding, D., & Corsini, R., 2011). Behavioral therapists that use these approaches can help people with anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and depression (Wedding, D., & Corsini, R., 2011).

“Several well-controlled studies have established that behavior therapy is an effective form of treatment for anxiety disorders” (Wedding, D., & Corsini, R., 2011). People with anxiety disorders may feel an overwhelming stress that feels uncontrollable, and they may experience a feeling of dread before they go to work or school or in the process of trying to accomplish a goal that is somewhat important to them (Anxiety Disorders Association of America, 2012). These people also constantly worry to the point to where it impacts their daily life; avoid social situations for fear of being judged, embarrassed, or humiliated; have panic attacks; have an irrational fear or avoidance of an object, place, or situation that presents no danger to them; perform uncontrollable repetitive actions such as excessive cleaning or checking; and have reoccurring nightmares or flashbacks (Anxiety Disorders Association of America, 2012).

“Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric illnesses affecting children and adults, [and] only about one-third of those suffering from an anxiety disorder receive treatment, even though the disorders are highly treatable” (Anxiety Disorders Association of America, 2012). One of the exercises performed in behavioral therapy to assist with phobias consists of exposing patients to their fears in order to get them to the point where they won’t panic when in that situation (Wedding, D., & Corsini, R., 2011). “In [behavioral therapy], the patient is actively involved in his or her own recovery, has a sense of control, and learns skills that are useful throughout life” (Anxiety Disorders Association of America, 2012). Clients utilizing behavioral therapy must be actively engaged in the recovery process in order to change their behavioral patterns. “[This process] typically involves reading about the problem, keeping records between appointments, and completing assignments in which the treatment procedures are practiced” (Anxiety Disorders Association of America, 2012).

Behavioral therapy also can be used with people with obsessive-compulsive disorder. “OCD is less a manifestation of people who have irrational thoughts than it is an anxiety disorder in which people respond instinctually to feelings of being in grave jeopardy, [and] devoting a significant amount of time in an attempt to explain the irrational nature of the thought content misses the underlying characteristics of the disorder” (Phillipson, S.). The most effective behavioral technique that has been utilized is exposure and response prevention, which entails exposing an OCD person to an object that they see as ‘contaminated’ and allowing them to see their irrational response (Wedding, D., & Corsini, R., 2011). A rational response must be learned by a person with OCD in order for them to understand that their irrational behavior must change (Phillipson, S.). “The majority of people with OCD are aware of the excessiveness and absurdity of their thoughts and perceptions, [and] therefore, helping OCD suffers to see the irrational nature of the thought content is counterproductive” (Phillipson, S.). By provoking an event to happen that may cause the OCD person to think that he or she was exposed to germs, one will think about the belief that they have that the germs are bad, go through the emotional guilt or worry about exposing his or herself to germs, and be forced to make a rational response to the situation (Phillipson, S.). “Research has shown that roughly 65 to 75 percent of patients with OCD show marked improvement following behavioral treatment” (Wedding, D., & Corsini, R., 2011).

Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder obtained when a person undergoes a traumatic experience. Stress, physical or emotional abuse, death of a loved one, war, and the experience of being in a natural disaster are all reasons that a person might get post-traumatic disorder. Symptoms of people with this disorder include high anxiety, stress, anger, nightmares,  and sleeping disturbances. The people will also avoid things that remind them of the trauma that they endured, and their disturbance over their past ordeals may hinder their ability to live a normal life. Post-traumatic stress disorder is diagnosed to individuals that have had these symptoms for one month or longer, and the symptoms must interrupt one or more of the important area in a person’s life, such as a person’s occupational life, family life, friendships, or educational endeavors.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is categorized into three different groups. The first group that this disorder is categorized is acute stress disorder. Acute stress disorder is when a person suffers from trauma for two days or longer but not more than four weeks. This person may avoid things that remind them of the trauma that they endured. Chronic post-traumatic stress disorder is the second category that this disorder can be divided into, and the individuals that have this type of post-traumatic stress disorder will have it for their entire life. A person diagnosed with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder has symptoms for more than 90 days, and the symptoms may last for a period of days and in some instances, a period of weeks. A person can also have a delay-onset version of this disorder. Delayed-onset post-traumatic stress disorder occurs when a person is reminded of a traumatic event that he or she endured, but he or she does not have symptoms of dissociation until years after this traumatic event has passed.

Treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder include cognitive-behavioral therapy. This is where a person goes to therapy to work through their feelings regarding the traumatic experience and work through their guilt regarding the situation. Medication may be given to individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder to ease their anxiety and help them sleep. Family therapy is also recommended for people that have post-traumatic stress disorder. This enables the affected person to work through the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and maintain a positive relationship with their family members. It also helps, because this builds an active support system for the person that has this disorder by helping the family members understand what he or she is going through.

For the most part, medication can be given for both PTSD and other anxiety disorders, but the cognitive behavioral therapy can actually vary dramatically. Also, with PTSD, there are special therapies that can help a person work through the traumatic situations like psychotherapy. The medications can help to relieve the anxiety that a person with PTSD feels but not flashbacks or feelings towards the original trauma. With other anxiety disorders, the CBT may help manage the daily situations that create the anxiety. However, with PTSD, the medication can’t even come close to solving the original cause of trauma and the feelings that a person goes through when experiencing these situations through flashbacks or triggers.


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