News Hurricane Katrina and the PTSD After Effect

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Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is a term being thrown around quite a bit these days, particularly in the wake of devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in areas such as New Orleans, South Louisiana and Mississippi. Many people may be unfamiliar with the specifics of this clinical disorder, their exposure to it limited to made-for-TV movies’ choppy juxtaposition of jungle flashbacks and offbeat caricatures of Vietnam veterans, who, by the end of the film, are able to overcome their condition through the love and support of their family and friends. It would certainly be a relief if Posttraumatic Stress Disorder were so easily conquered. However, the disorder is much more complex and deep-seated than mainstream data implies.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a serious disorder, diagnosable by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), the bible of mental health professionals. The DSM-IV outlines and qualifies hundreds of mental disorders, creating diagnostic criteria and treatment goals consistent across mental health professions. PTSD is listed in the DSM-IV under the broader category of Anxiety Disorders. The hallmark of PTSD is the development of specific symptoms following the experience of a traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one, witnessing or suffering a violent act, or enduring a severe natural disaster. Some of these symptoms include an inability to fall or stay asleep at night, recurrent memories of the trauma, psychological stress when faced with situations triggering memories of the trauma, panic attacks, feeling detached from family and friends, and even finding oneself unable to recall certain aspects of the trauma.

Upon reading through this list, many Katrina survivors likely recognized some or all of these symptoms in themselves, which is completely understandable, even probable. Hurricane Katrina completely overturned the lives of thousands of people, wreaking havoc, death, and destruction nearly everywhere she roamed. To identify Katrina as a “traumatic event†is an understatement. It is likely that countless victims of this disaster are currently diagnosable with PTSD, and simply never recognized their feelings and symptoms as cause to seek help. Such people direly need the community resources and education about PTSD and related mental health conditions that so frequently plague survivors of intensely tragic events like Katrina. There is no need for the citizens of New Orleans to suffer in silence with the pain of PTSD. If you or a loved one fits any of the criteria listed above, contact your doctor as soon as possible. He or she can provide you with further information, referrals to social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals who can offer relief in this time of potentially unbearable hardship.

Source: Bayou Buzz


And so it continues to get more interesting, with a future for thousands unknown whether they will, or will not, develop PTSD. I am a bit both ways with this following article, in that I really do understand what is and is not traumtic, but I don't know if their estimates would really be as high as they outline, which is the lower level apparently!

I understand hurricane katrina was devasting for the US and New Orleans, hell... the entire world witnessed it on what is now "media" 24/7 live broadcasting, yet I am still pressed to whether many will actually fall into the PTSS category, and simply be misdiagnosed with PTSD instead. Whether this falls inline with the American shrinks that want to push lower end sufferers into the PTSD bracket, so they then turn around and claim victory on curing PTSD, I don't know.

I understand that those within a hurricane and devistation would have trauma afterwards, no doubt in my mind, but it is becoming ever increasing that doctors are now merely branding all trauma as PTSD, instead of calling it what it is. One, two or even three symptoms of PTSD, does not warrant being diagnosed with PTSD under the real and meaningful schedule of diagnosis, and not some pretent method doctors are coming up with to diagnose.

Ok, lets look at things in real day life. Realistically, your life is in danger 24/7, and that is a fact. It doesn't matter whether your sitting in your home, as someone could come into your house, a plane could crash into it, a car smash through it, etc etc etc; everytime you get in a car, you increasing your chances of death or serious injury, but hey, 99.9999% of the global population don't get PTSD from all these everyday traumatic life experiences.

Those within the hurricane that suffered directly, ie. their life was in critical danger of being taken, or those that where pulling bodies out, and so forth, a percentage would be liable to PTSD, no question at all. But now the media are focusing on children.

Children are involved in car accidents, and yet when they get back in the car, they become back seat drivers basically, telling their parents to be careful, watch this, watch that, but they learn to live with the facts of reality vs. the mental substitutes.

Are we, society, imposing the mental substitutes of reality upon the upcoming future of society? Society has changed much over the past couple of decades in a sense that not many see as positive, for example, the belife you can sue someone for any minor infraction!

The facts of PTSD are, it can actually be avoided if treated early, before being allowed to progress to PTSD. If many of us had mandatory counselling for several years, if needed, after our traumatic events, the likelihood of everyone here having PTSD would be somewhat slim. Has society merely given up? Are we just lying down and accepting that traumatic events will garnish PTSD? Instead of being proactive and forcing professional help upon those trauma victims before allowing PTSD to even establish? It can be stopped beforehand, but it can't be stopped once fully inflicted!

Anyway, here is the actual story itself, which in some points is a little distressing from events and suffering occurred during hurricane Katrina.

NEW ORLEANS — Each time 3-year-old Monica gets in the bathtub, she thinks she will drown.

She whimpers when her grandmother turns on the faucet, sobbing softly at first, then wailing as the tub begins to fill.

“She cries and cries. ‘Don’t be crying,’ I tell her. ‘I’ve got to wash your hair,’ ” said her grandmother, Ruth May Smith.

There is no use telling Monica she won’t drown. The word isn’t part of the toddler’s vocabulary. And it won’t do much good to tell her that Grandma will take care of her, either. Monica learned the hard way that those she loves can’t always protect her.

There were seven children inside the family’s Gulf Coast home on Aug. 29 when a 30-foot wave unleashed by Hurricane Katrina crashed down upon it. As the walls began to crumble, the older children swam out. Monica, the littlest, was still inside with her grandmother and two aunts. None could swim.

The toddler went under. She would have drowned if not for a family friend who dived in, fished her out and placed her inside a floating cooler.

In her plastic ark, Monica bobbed to safety — but the storm’s high-water mark is still imprinted inside her, as it is in thousands of others who survived the storm.

About 1.2 million children younger than 18 were living in counties rendered disaster zones by Katrina. According to one assessment, as many as 8 percent — or 100,000 — are expected to develop posttraumatic stress disorder.

Most experts say the toll is likely far higher. Of the first 1,000 children screened by the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, 27 percent displayed symptoms of trauma, including nightmares, flashbacks, heightened anxiety and bedwetting, said Joy Osofsky, a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at LSU’s Harris Center for Infant Mental Health.

A study by the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and the Children’s Health Fund compared children displaced by Katrina with other youngsters surveyed in urban Louisiana in 2003. Katrina’s victims were more than twice as likely to have behavioral or conduct problems. The same was true of depression or anxiety.

How children respond and the severity of their reaction varies widely. But eight months after Katrina, patterns are starting to surface.

For teenagers, depression is setting in, as they realize it could be years before they return to their homes, if ever.

Elementary- and middle-school children struggle with the loss of their toys. They battle nightmares and intrusive thoughts. Their anxiety comes out in physical symptoms, such as recurring stomach aches.

For children younger than 6, their faith in their parents’ ability to protect them has been shattered. To make themselves feel secure, they regress, sticking close to their parents and returning to behavior they had previously outgrown, such as thumb-sucking and bed-wetting.

More than 5,000 children were separated from their families in the hectic days after Katrina made landfall, according to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Those who lost a parent often become unmoored, focusing their angst on their surviving parent.

When her father takes a nap, 8-year-old Gabrielle Riley circles the bedroom, on edge. Eventually, she quietly turns the doorknob. “I just go in his room and see if he’s OK. But sometimes he don’t answer me, so I just scream loud, ‘Daddy, are you OK?’ ” she explained.

Gabrielle’s mother caught pneumonia when the family was evacuated to Houston and died in her sleep. Ever since, Gabrielle has been unable to fall asleep by herself, curling up with her grandmother instead. It is a recurring pattern, child psychologists say, as children retreat into what is most familiar.

April Ocker did not let her daughter out of her sight during the hurricane. But since then, 5-year-old Breanna has harbored a horrible fear: “I’m afraid my mommy is going to go away and not come back,” said the little girl, her brown bangs covering saucerlike eyes.

Ocker tried to comfort Breanna, stroking her hair. But it is hard to reassure a child who saw trees crashing around her family’s trailer, parked 5 1/2 miles from the beach in Pass Christian, Miss. Katrina nearly wiped the city off the map.

As the hurricane bore down, Ocker placed Breanna and her 8-year-old brother inside the trailer’s bathtub, hoping the tub’s walls would protect them. The tub survived, but the children are scarred.

Breanna said that when it rains, she hides under the coffee table. She can fall asleep only in her mother’s bed. She trails her mother like a shadow. Ocker occasionally gets called to Breanna’s school because of the girl’s sobbing.

Breanna described the hurricane like this: “It sounds like a monster.”

It is a monster that is never far away. Even in her mother’s arms sleeping at night, Breanna often has nightmares.

“A monster is running after me. There’s a bear, too,” she said.

Child psychologists in New Orleans say caseloads have doubled, both because of the heightened need and because so many doctors have not returned. “I used to be able to book a new child within two weeks. Now, I’m booking appointments two months out,” said child psychologist Carlos Reinoso, author of the book Little Ducky Jr. and the Whirlwind Storm, which tries to explain the hurricane to children.

What mental health professionals fear most is the effect down the road.

A 1988 earthquake in Armenia killed 25,000 people. Tracking more than 200 young survivors over five years, researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles’ Trauma Psychiatry Program found that those who were given professional help early on fared better and showed fewer symptoms at the end of the study. Those who got no help did not improve.

A child such as 3-year-old Monica — so traumatized she thinks she’s going to drown in a bathtub — clearly needs help, said Bruce Perry, a senior fellow at the Child Trauma Academy in Houston. Without it, she risks a future of drug and alcohol abuse, high blood pressure, crime and child abuse.

“This crisis is foreseeable, and much of its destructive impact is preventable,” Perry said. “Yet our society may not have the wisdom to see that the real crisis of Katrina is the hundreds of thousands of ravaged, displaced and traumatized children.”

Some may already be beyond help.

No one noticed that a 14-year-old girl in Pass Christian — once a straight-A student — had stopped reading since Katrina.

The girl, who asked that she not be identified because she felt embarrassed, used to lose herself in books. “I would picture myself as the main character in whatever I was reading. I read so much that I would lose track of time,” she said.

Now, she has a hard time concentrating. Horrible images intrude as she reads.

She remembers the drowned man, impaled on his plywood fence. She pictures her favorite skirt high in the branches of a tree.

Last month she locked herself in the bathroom of her family’s FEMA trailer and lifted a bottle of disinfectant to her lips. Her mother found the girl passed out on the toilet seat, her head leaning against the trailer’s plastic wall, the floor slick with the disinfectant.

The girl recovered from the suicide attempt, but her family does not have the resources to get her professional help, relying instead on teachers and school counselors.

To this girl, the world is a tunnel of darkness. She sees no way out.

“It’s like I can’t see my future anymore,” she said.

Source: Kansas Star
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