We live in a world where every day people go through traumas that change their lives forever. We exist in a world where many people suffering from traumas end up taking their own lives rather than asking for help because of the social stigma it carries. In a society where mental illness continues to be a taboo, we humans continue to be unaware of its implications and the way it changes a person’s brain. We fail to identify and understand the depth and complexity with which it changes a person’s persona and affects their day-to-day lives.In the light of the above mentioned events, we must first address an important issue that is not talked about in a mundane scenario: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
PTSD is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event which we either experience or witness. When a person goes through a traumatic event it affects different areas of their brain namely, the amygdala, the prefrontal cortex, and the hippocampus.
The amygdala is responsible for communication with other parts of the brain, store memories as well as consolidate them; but in case of a PTSD patient, a triggering situation makes amygdala hyperactive. The prefrontal cortex acts as a braking system that helps return our body to a normal state when we realise that the circumstance doesn’t pose a danger. However, in a PTSD patient it fails to do its function and the brain doesn’t register the difference between actual danger and the bonafide situation which merely triggers an inappropriate response. Damage to the hippocampus releases excess cortisol (a stress hormone) and helps the victim remember certain details of their trauma vividly while distorts others, making it difficult for the person to make sense of the surroundings he or she is in.
Although, a Psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett, of Northeastern University claims that amygdala is not the centre of fear. She says that the amygdala is active in all cases of fear, anger or anxiety and all of them may not be related to the said traumatic event. Thus, the condition and role of the amygdale in the brain of a PTSD patient is still a debatable topic.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affects different people in different ways since there are many causes for it such as sexual abuse, witnessing disturbing scenes as an army combatant, an accident or even witnessing a murder. This causes people to lose sleep, develop anxiety, have anger issues, become hyper-vigilant, have nightmares as well as fall into depression. These days people either fail to notice these symptoms or they label them as ‘a result of a hectic life’ or ‘bad attitude’ of the person in front. People withdraw socially and also develop fears or phobias towards stuff which never scared them before.
Therefore, it is crucial for us to be aware of this phenomenon known as PTSD to understand its complications and the pain it inflicts on a person. People struggle with it not only because of the traumatic memories but also because of the stigma that accompanies it, making it difficult for the patient to seek help.