By Barbara Babnew, PTA
POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER AND THE THERAPIST
Post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a psychiatric disorder that develops in some people that witness or experience a trauma or terrifying life threatening events.
PTSD is classified as an anxiety disorder. PTSD can cause very real physical and psychological symptoms. Because of past trauma, people can have strong emotions or be emotionally numb. They may perceive they are threatened even in a situation that is non- threatening. Anger may be evident in situations that seem unwarranted. Other symptoms include:
Difficulty sleeping including nightmares or terrors
Feeling of being “jumpy” or easily startled
Believing that you need to be “on your guard” at all times.
Dizziness or fainting
We do not know the exact cause of PTSD. Some events that result in PTSD are: child abuse, sexual abuse/rape, being the victim of a crime, assaults, natural disasters and military combat. PSTD has it highest incidence in women. It can occur in people of any age.
So what does this mean to Physical Therapists and Physical Therapy Assistants? Most importantly, many people with PTSD have boundary issues. It may involve being touched, being in certain positions or the way in which you speak to them. You must respect a Patient by discussing with them how you plan to treat them and always get their permission before touching them. Be aware of changes in a Patient’s comfort level. Create an atmosphere where a Patient feels free to “speak up” if anything is making them uncomfortable. Are they fine with you while working in the Gym, but become more difficult in a closed room? Some Patients are easily frustrated which can be confused with anger.
Reacting to your Patient with a calm demeanor, rescheduling them if necessary, may result in a more productive Plan Of Care.
Treating Patients with PTSD can be very challenging. Seek help from your peers if possible.
If you become concerned about any of the issues listed above you must notify the referring Medical Treatment facility immediately.
Barbara Jean Babnew, PTA