The Trauma in PTSD
Other health effects of post traumatic stress disorder are specific to the type of trauma experienced. Common traumatic events that precipitate PTSD are death of a loved one, rape, and war and military combat.
Post traumatic stress disorder resulting from the sudden and unexpected death of a loved one (Kim & Jacobs, 1995) is often associated with negative health effects, such as eating problems (loss of or increased appetite) and suicidal thoughts (Prigerson, Bierhals, Kasl, Reynolds & others, 1997). The fact that the stressor is irreversible, that is, one cannot bring back the dead, could mean that the only way to cope is to let the time pass away. For some people, time is enough to heal, as with cases of unipolar depression resulting from PTSD (Monroe & Hadjiyannakis, 2002) that lasts for at least a year; but for some, depression can last for even 5 years (Boland & Keller, 2002).
Post traumatic stress disorder in rape victims, particularly women, showed marked deficits across a range of functioning (McCann & others, 1988). Rape victims are often physically disturbed, and report feeling anxious for most of the day. They also tend to be emotionally unstable, are often depressed, and tend to exhibit low self-esteem. Their cognitive ability is also diminished; most report an inability to concentrate due to intrusive thoughts stemming from the attack. They are also more likely to view themselves and others negatively, or more aptly, helplessly, thinking that anyone is susceptible to rape. Antisocial behaviors, such as shows of aggression and hostility, and substance abuse, are also common. Lastly, rape victims are also prone to having relationship problems, especially concerning sex and power distribution.
Combat-related post traumatic stress disorder varies according to the level (or type) of exposure in war. Civilians living in war zones can also develop PTSD, and the most common symptom associated with it is anxiety (Zeidner, 1993; Schwarzwald & others, 1993; Weizman & others, 1994). Post traumatic symptoms associated with exposure to combat violence include intrusive thoughts, anxiety, apathy, and cognitive problems, such as concentration and memory difficulties; and these symptoms, including depression, are present in those who were not only exposed to violence, but also participated in it (Laufer, Brett & Gallops, 1985). Soldiers who handled corpses, on the other hand, tend be more angry, anxious, and complain of physical problems (McCarroll, Ursano & Fullerton, 1995). Prisoners of war are at higher risk for developing severe post traumatic stress symptoms. Besides the symptoms associated with war, POWs typically sustain severe damage in both physical and psychological functioning, including headaches (mostly due to head injuries), sexual impotency (as a result of contracting infectious diseases, diarrhea (mostly caused by malnutrition), suppressed immunity, and severe adjustment problems, such as low tolerance to stress, substance abuse, and inability to control anger (Barrett, Resnik, Foy & Dansky, 1996; Chambers, 1952; Goldsmith & Cretekos, 1969; Hunter, 1978; Sigal & others, 1973; Strange & Brown, 1970; Warnes, 1973; Wilbur, 1973). POWs are also nine times more likely to die from tuberculosis, four times more likely to die from gastrointestinal problems, and two times more likely to die from cancer, heart disease, and suicide, in the first six years after release, compared to typical civilians (Wolff, 1960).