Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: Psychological Perspectives


A provisional definition of trauma presented by Van der Kolk and Fisler cited by MacNair (2002) is the experience of an inescapable stressful event that overwhelms one’s existing coping mechanisms (MacNair, 2002, p. 94).

This, no doubt explains trauma in a manner that allows pace for only the passive victim. However, it is not sufficient in providing how in this context a trauma can be reproduced in the laboratory? It is therefore, not possible to analyze traumatic memories to be understood through experimental manipulations of normal subjects. Too many traumatic experiences escorts an individual to PTSD, which is a direct or indirect reaction to the catastrophic events that incur at any stage throughout the lifetime of an individual.


Clinically, PTSD belongs to the DSM-IV-TR criteria, that identifies various symptom clusters for the individual suffering that includes but is not limited to re-experiencing same feelings of despair or symptoms such as flashback of intrusive memories and nightmares that triggers the individual towards anxiety. Behavior such as hyperactivity symptoms cascading unnecessary tension usually from the past events, irritability and poor sleep are witnessed with emotional numbing, social isolation, and lack of life progress. Though there are different psychological contradictions of PTSD but since this paper focus on three post-traumatic psychological perspectives, we will analyze three different psychological stipulations ultimately leading to the same form of mental illness.

While developing a measurable response to PTSD, our first perspective is that of a childhood memory that retains every bit of the accident of physical or sexual abuse and that in the longer run pertains to psychological illness as a result of that trauma.

A childhood trauma may be any catastrophe witnessed in the emotional or physical context of childhood ultimately leading to PTSD. The second school of thought recognizes the impact of trauma on soldiers that provides an organized schema of the traumatic experience of being at war. In this manner, there are more catastrophic events experienced by the trauma survivors that not only include emotional shocks but are also more exposed towards physical wounds and disasters. Again, the elucidation requires the inner person that captures each and every wound that a soldier experiences not only on his body but on his soul. This indicates that the inner child is not capable of manipulating catastrophic events that incur in our lives at various moments and reacts.

The third perspective demonstrates how a social worker indirectly experiences intense psychological distresses by helping others or deciding to help others, who are often close to him. Although, in this case the PTSD is not severe to experience intense memory flashbacks, but since the child in this case develops a picture of what he listens from his associates or victim survivors, the social worker suffers.

This in terms of clinical psychology can be described as the event in which PTSD collaborates with childhood consciousness of a person and emanates toxic ‘guilt’ (Mcnally, 2003) where such ‘guilt’ acts as a traumatic trigger that not only damages sensitive areas of brain thereby effecting stress hormones, but also stains the childhood as an icon that confuses the inner as well as outer personalities of the individual.

This is so because there are two personalities residing in every individual, the one that depicts the present and the other that is used to recover memories of childhood. In normal persons, these two personalities combine to form a solid characteristic that often form the visible and psychological traits of the person. When a traumatic event takes place, the intensity of trauma feeble the outer personality due to which the inner child within us try to get hold of us.

This initiates a new conflict between these two personalities and I personally believe that there is a child that resides deep within us, takes into account all the traumatic catastrophes that incur in our childhood. On the other hand our present conscious considers optimism while enforcing our inner trait to seize and forget the accidents. In the result of these two contradictions, PTSD occurs.

Childhood neglect and physical abuse are one of the common traumatic events that are illustrated as ‘intrafamilial’ or ‘extrafamililial’ sexual impositions according to Kreidler et al (2002) and that occurs usually when a child is under 18 years of age. It is not necessary that a child experiences sexual impositioning as indicated by Kreidler et al (2002) to be a trauma survivor, this indicates that physical abuse may take many forms and behaviors that depict any kind of exhibitionism or sexual perversion and intercourse.

As he suggests that the literature on PTSD these years have not only identified the causes but have also elucidated the post-trauma response of victims to life events other than war. These include acute traumas or life-time threatening events such as a natural or man-made disaster and airplane crashes (Kreidler et al, 2002). Although the criteria that implies to all these catastrophes may be the same, but since we are referring to war survivors, our focus is on the followed psychological stressors.

In the light of neurobiological perspective, all the three psychological conditions discussed above are not dependant upon a single stressor or system that works to be held responsible. In fact, there are multiple triggers that works while analyzing the neurobiology of PTSD, for example a soldier directly experiencing PTSD when listens to radio, may experience hyperactive attitude, or by seeing any wound may react abruptly.

Evidences include abnormalities pertaining to neurohormonal alterations that further leads to changes in functional neuroanatomy. General oncology on PTSD reveals that different systems are interconnected by the increased release of norepinephrine and enhanced autonomic activity. It is this activity that triggers the past events and the individual is subject to hypersensitive condition.

While analyzing the numbing symptoms of PTSD, psychologists conducted an open label study in context with Vietnam war, childhood abuse and social worker subject to traumatic stress and find that all the three were interrelated to similar stress factors and re-experienced similar extent flashbacks and nightmares, except for the difference in emotional intensity. The scenario of a social worker though does not seem that much exhaustive as compared to the other two, however, the practice of the social workers with their associates indicate that social workers confront a high rate of professional contact with traumatized people.

They experience the same symptoms as the other two and are easily fit into the category that belongs to assist survivors of childhood abuse, domestic violence, violent crime, disasters, and war and terrorism.

As Bride (2007) points out that the psychological trauma being apparent in assessing the effects of stress extend beyond those who are directly affected. Bride uses the term ‘secondary traumatic stress’ (STS) to identify the ones being indirectly affected by the traumatic stress and that is possible when the trauma survivors by any means come into close contact with others (Bride, 2007). As a result PTSD may also have an indirect and minor effect on other people who experience emotional disruption by becoming indirect victims of the trauma.

This indicates that many clinicians and psychologists believe that indirect or secondary traumatic stress that results from listening, understanding or helping a traumatized person may also include symptoms that goes hand in hand with those who are observed to be directly exposed to trauma such as intrusive imagery related to clients’ traumatic disclosures.

Statistical divisions may be useful in factor analysis of providing insight in the root causes behind PTSD. However, only few studies analyze in context with co-relational technique and finds how well certain items coalesce with one another when a large number of people have answered the items.

The theme may be the same for the analysis that can provide a description for the factor, but studies of PTSD symptoms can help in enhancing our visions of traumatic stress reactions because distinct factors may correspond with distinct mechanisms. However, the complexity arises when high inter-correlations share distinctive factors among symptoms that do cause problems in the analysis. This affects the rates that deny the re-experiencing of symptoms because that should be different depending on what type of trauma was experienced.


Thus, the above analysis illustrates the direct or indirect significance of stress disorder that psychologically affects every individual depending upon the varying intensity. What causes a distinction between the three perspectives is the rate and priority to which the sufferer experience the impacts.


Bride, E. Brian. (2007). Prevalence of Secondary Traumatic Stress among Social Workers. Social Work, 52(1), 63.

Kreidier C. Maryhelen, Briscoe A. Leslie & Beech R. Rhonda. (2002). Pharmacology for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Related to Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Literature Review. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, 38(4), 135.

MacNair, M. Rachel. (2002). Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress: The Psychological Consequences of Killing: Praeger: Westport, CT.

Mcnally, J. Richard. (2003). Progress and Controversy in the Study of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Annual Review of Psychology, 229.

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