Friday, June 15, 2007

Resilience Against PTSD

I've just been reading about a study concerned with measuring 'resilience' against PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Researchers have studied the survivors from the World Trade Centre Attack (9/11). Some of their findings were measured against some general information known about Viet Nam survivors. Researchers have been trying to find out why some people are more affected and suffer more mental illness symptoms than others after such traumatic events.

Not a lot of information was displayed about Viet Nam statistics but it seems that World Trade Centre Attack survivors fared a little better than Viet Nam survivors and this is probably because less was known about PTSD back in the 1970's. (This paragraph, my own assumptions - from general knowledge of Viet Nam dates and knowing that much more is known about PTSD Now than in the 70's). Also, some of the data from Viet Nam studies was probably gathered WELL AFTER the fact (I know that more formal and legitimate studies of Viet Nam vets and lasting effects of the war were not initiated until about a decade after the fact - not until after people noticed that Viet Nam vets were still suffering severe symptoms of PTSD long after they were removed from the 'war' situation), while WTC-Attack survivors were approached in a very timely manner (within 6 months) so that researchers could monitor PTSD reactions. This difference in timing will account for researchers knowing quite a bit less, in general, about Viet Nam vets and victims than about WTC survivors.

WTC survivors had 'support options' available to them shortly after the attack, whereas Viet Nam survivors gained 'support options' only a long time after their time of active stress.

The point of this post is to mention what items seemed to be most helpful about managing PTSD - but I felt I should clarify the difference in the two groups studied above because each group actually had very different variables. Usually, such differences can hamper research, however, the drawbacks or 'lack of support' and having less knowledge about PTSD in the one instance actually heightens the focus on 'support' for the study initiated to track the progress of 9/11 survivors.

Bottom line...

IMMEDIATE and APPROPRIATE support for victims of stressful disaster events is CRUCIAL.

For the 9/11 people, those who were able to access appropriate supports soonest were more likely to cope with the disaster and recover with less PTSD symptoms, in general - or - at least they were able to cope even when mental illness and continued stress symptoms occurred in reaction to 9/11 events.

9/11 survivors who had stong support systems (family, counsellors, mental health workers, discussion groups, physicians, etc) and accessed them regularly - showed more signs of recovering health and returning to more normal life skills, activities and work. Those who didn't access or who didn't really have solid support systems were often afflicted with symptoms of mental illness for longer - or they suffered more severe symptoms.

The New York City study of residents in the area near the 9/11 attacks numbered 2 752 and some of these individuals were actually inside the World Trade Centre when the attack happened. Of all these, two-thirds of the people displayed only one or NO SYMPTOMS of PTSD.

This study suggests, as well - that some people are very 'resilient' - moreso than we think! It was amazing to read that for this study, done only 6 months after the World Trade Centre Attack - a great number of people actually had NO SYMPTOMS of PTSD!

That's amazing - and the people from this study were RIGHT THERE...right in the city when the attacks occurred.

Too bad the world didn't realize how important 'support systems' were when the veterans came back out of Viet Nam decades ago! In essence, the Viet Nam Veterans who suffered so greatly for a decade after the war - were the ones who taught scientists, doctors, health professionsals, etc., that special supports are necessary after certain disastrous experiences and events.

Now, in North America, at least, we have a lot of known support protocols for many different severe events - even RAPE victims have better supports now and in a lot of North American cities, special 'teams' are in place when a female is admitted to a hospital and a rape is suspected as the cause of her injuries. With these teams, there are often 'all women' support workers - so that the victim has less emotional discomfort, receives some counselling right away, etc., on top of all the testing and questioning that has to be done.

Sometimes, for severe road accidents, there are special 'trauma team' workers who can come to the bedside of children whose parents were killed in accidents and the 'support' process can start immediately for unfortunate and innocent victims of such disasters.

Though sometimes PTSD is thought of as an 'overused' and convenient 'catch-phrase' for all kinds of things, it's nice to know that long-term stress is still being researched and is still taken very seriously.

PTSD is no joking or small matter. Too little is known about it - so I think that those who would minimize the effects and occurrence of PTSD problems and call PTSD 'convenient' for some - are sorely mistaken. It would be good to sometimes err on the side of caution, anyway, with this sensitive term rather than display the 'suck it up' or 'get over it' attitude, in my opinion.

I'm not sure exactly why this article struck me or why I felt I had to post this information to my blog...

Maybe - just 'cos it matters to me.

A general bit of info about 'Resilience' can be found at and the following link can also lead you to some more in-depth studies on this topic if you're interested:


Friday, June 1, 2007

Please Take Manic Depression Seriously

Taking Manic Depression Seriously

Manic depression or Bipolar Disorder is actually considered as one of the worst type of depression that people can suffer from.

Characterized by sudden and extreme changes of mood, Manic depression is called such because manic = mania refers to the 'ups' while depression refers to 'downs' - in a cycle of mood changes that can persist for long periods of time. Many people actually experience very erratic changes, and so-called 'mood swings' may not just be caused by PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) or stress. Doctors actually have diagnosed mood swings as a common symptom of depression.

Often, when these so-called mood swings have progressed for an extended time, ranging from feeling simple 'annoyance' (even by very minor, simple things such as not getting a favorite ice cream flavor), this may not be just a sign of brattiness! If getting 'irked' means you'll cuss and swear at ice cream vendors, friends and family, throwing absurd tantrums - this behavior can be a sign of the onset of Manic depression.

'Manic' - 'ups' - are the times when a person suffering from Manic depression experiences overly 'high' periods. This means feelings of heightened energy, sudden outbursts of euphoric mood, extreme irritability, racing thoughts, and - unfortunately - agressive behavior, too (not always - but almost always!).

According to therapists, someone suffering from Manic depression may have Manic 'periods' whereby the sudden outbursts of euphoria and elevated mood can go on and on for more than a day - in fact, more than a week and beyond! Imagine how STRESSED the physical body of a person would be if their 'up' period were to last even one day! Some people go through this 'up' behavior and feeling for over a week. This is terribly taxing on the physical body.

When it comes to the so-called 'low' or 'down' periods, these can actually bring someone who is suffering from Manic depression very similar symptoms as those who are suffering from actual depression. People who have Manic depression may actually experience episodes of depression where they feel worthless, unloved, and they may start to experience very severe irrational, corrupt thinking. Varied symptoms like, guilt, extreme sadness, anxiety (including panic or anxiety attacks), feelings of not belonging, extreme pessimism and obvious loss for pleasure can all surface. Sometimes in combinations and almost all at once! According to therapists, an individual who is depressed consistently for more than a week can officially be diagnosed as someone who is suffering from Manic depression.

In spite of being one of the most common, yet severe types of depressive disorders, Manic depression, can actually be treated. Quite successfully too! If an individual with Manic depression identifies their symptoms with the help of a professional, follows proper procedures outlined by a good therapist, maintains proper taking of prescribed medications of the correct dosage, then Manic depression need not be unmanageable at all.

Also, individuals who are suffering from Manic depression should ensure that they are able to visit their therapists on a regular basis. This is helpful for allowing the individual to release pent up emotions with someone who can effectively interpret and understand what kinds of emotional and mental processes are going on. Here, though helpful family and friends are of extreme importance, the assistance of a professional is likely best (even if there is a therapist in the family) because the 'venting' can remain with and fall on the shoulders of an objective person, the therapist. This can help alleviate 'responsibilities' of family members and friends who might 'take on too much' responsibility, out of love and concern for the person diagnosed with Manic depression. In this, family and friends can be more stress-free and well-prepared for times when their loved one might need their understanding outside of regular therapy.

Although positive results for a Manic depressive patient can still be achieved from natural alternatives, a more lasting relief from Manic depressive symptoms can often be acquired through Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Contrary to some beliefs, long-held, about psychiatric treatments being the ultimate answer (or the only one) for dealing with Manic Depression, cognitive behavior therapists are actually some of the best professionals to consult for this illness.