National PTSD Awareness Day – Part I

July 3rd, 2017 | by RON BELL

National PTSD Awareness Day – Part I

PTSD is a complex psychological phenomenon that needs professional medical attention – and sometimes may be a basis for a lawsuit.

From warzones to courtrooms – a short history of PTSD

Shell shock, war neurosis, combat fatigue – as all of these names suggest, symptoms that are now associated with post-traumatic stress disorder historically have been linked with the psychological aftermath of the harrowing experiences of a war zone. As the understanding of this condition deepened, however, mental health experts and psychologists established that a wartime trauma is not the only reason a person can develop a case of PTSD. Sometimes the disorder can occur even if a person suffered no evident physical damage or emotional loss. Today we know that many kinds of life-threatening or traumatic events can trigger stress-related, persistent psychological and emotional reactions that match the symptoms of a condition formerly reserved mostly for war veterans. Surviving a tornado, or a severe car accident, having endured sexual or physical abuse, or even workplace bullying – all of these experiences can cause post-traumatic stress disorder. In some cases, it is sufficient to only witness another person being badly injured or killed for the symptoms to occur.

In 2010, the United States Congress designated June 27th to be observed as National PTSD Awareness Day in order to spread knowledge about this condition and encourage people who are experiencing it to reach out and seek help. Recognizing the seriousness of the problem in our society, this and the upcoming blog post will be dedicated to PTSD. The current article will set out the medical intricacies of the disorder and present information on the diagnosis process. The second one will deal with how a PTSD personal injury claim can be successfully defended in a court of law.

PTSD – a medical perspective

Although knowledge and awareness of PTSD have grown considerably with the general public in recent years, it is vital to appreciate and understand what exactly the condition involves and how it is diagnosed in a mental health specialist’s office before analyzing the process of proving a case of PTSD in a courtroom. Post-traumatic stress disorder was first codified as a distinctive psychological condition in 1980 by the American Psychiatric Association in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is a reference work used by healthcare professionals in the US and many other parts of the world as a guide to diagnostic process . The fifth edition of the same manual, published in 2013, defines PTSD against 8 criteria. The disorder is always the result of a stressful event that may include death or threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, and actual or threatened sexual violence. The stressor may be experienced first-hand, witnessed personally, or a person affected by PTSD may have learned about it indirectly. The traumatic event is then re-experienced in an involuntary and intrusive way, for example through memories, flashbacks, or nightmares. A person with PTSD persistently tries to fight these symptoms, avoiding any external stimuli that may trigger them, but usually with little success or to no avail. This internal battle effects in some way the mood of a person and their cognitions – for example, persistent, distorted feelings of self-blame or blame of others for the traumatic event may occur, often accompanied by feelings of alienation and lack of interest in activities previously deemed important. All of this can lead to the person becoming irritable or aggressive, engaging in self-destructive or reckless behavior, or experiencing problems with concentration or sleep. If these symptoms persist for more than a month, impair the person’s social and occupational performance, and if other potential causes are ruled out, a mental health specialist may find them sufficient to warrant a PTSD diagnosis and treatment.

According to the National Comorbidity Survey report (NCS), between 7 and 8 out of every 100 Americans will develop PTSD at some point in their lives and about 8 million American adults experience it during any given year. Because the severity and tenacity of the symptoms of this disorder can go on for months or even years, many of those affected by the condition cannot work for extended periods of time, often finding themselves with no money to cover growing medical expenses for the treatment and other vital costs. Combined with ongoing mental suffering, these factors lead many people experiencing PTSD to seek compensation for both psychological and financial damage sustained as the result of the condition.

But what exactly is involved in proving PTSD damages in a personal injury case? And what factors are taken into consideration in determining the value of a PTSD lawsuit? The next article in this series will offer concise answers to these questions.

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