Traumatic experiences can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition that is often not taken seriously enough, a Hsinchu-based doctor said on Monday.
Chou Po-han (周伯翰), a psychiatrist at China Medical University Hsinchu Hospital, earlier this year treated a 60-year-old woman after she experienced strong stress due to the demands of her parents-in-law with whom she had been living for several years while her husband was working in China.
The woman’s symptoms emerged after her parents-in-law passed away and her children had grown up, Chou said.
The woman in the past few years increasingly experienced depression, and began having mood swings and suicidal thoughts, he said.
“The majority of PTSD cases occur after traumatic experiences that cause intense feelings of fear and helplessness,” he said.
People with PTSD experience symptoms including “flashbacks” of the traumatic event, heightened alertness, long-term anxiety and negative moods, Chen said, adding that they also tend to avoid people or things that they associate with the traumatic event.
“People with PTSD most of the time appear emotionally stable, but if something triggers memories of the traumatic event, they might experience depression or other negative feelings, that might last for several weeks,” he said.
Citing a study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, Chou said that people with PTSD often have suicidal thoughts or even become violent toward others.
In cases such as that of the woman who experienced traumatic stress when living with her parents-in-law, the greatest challenge is that the source of PTSD is often years in the past, and the disorder goes unnoticed by other members of their family and friends, Chou said.
“PTSD mainly causes an imbalance in the brain’s amygdala, which stores memories of frightening experiences. The amygdala of a person with PTSD becomes overactive,” he said.
Chou advised people whose partners have experienced violent or stressful treatment by other family members to seek professional help.
People often think that traumatic experiences can be “shrugged off,” Chou said, adding that if PTSD does not get treated, symptoms often get worse.
People who have overbearing parents-in-law should remove themselves from the situation, even if just temporarily, by for example returning to their family, he said, adding that people in such situations should protect their own privacy.
PTSD is usually treated with medication and psychological consultation, he said, adding that repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation is in some cases also a treatment option.
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