Week 5: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Panic Attacks
Anxiety disorders involve behaviors the surround overwhelming anxiety and attempts to reduce this anxiety through maladaptive means. Anxiety disorders are among the most common psychological disorders treated by professionals. In fact, it is estimated that one in four people will suffer from an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Two of the most common forms of anxiety disorders are obsessive complusive disorder (which we'll examine next week) and phobias (which we'll look at in week eight). The two anxiety disorders that we'll be studying this week are posttraumatic stress disorder and panick attacks.

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) involves overwhelming anxiety, flashbacks and troubling recollections of a highly traumatic event. Veterans who have seen heavy combat duty and women who have been raped or assaulted may suffer from this. The individual attempts to avoid situations or objects that might trigger the disorder. Success of treatment depends on whether the individual had any psychological disorders prior to PTSD, their social support group and whether the individual is currently experiencing any other psychological disorders.

A panic attack is a condition in which a person suffers a period of intense anxiety. Physical reactions include disorientation, tunnel vision, a feeling a disconnectedness, increased blood pressure, increase heart rate, shortness of breath. Panic attacks typically begin in the mid-20s. Agoraphobia is an intense fear of situations with no escape or help in the event of a panic attack.

In our first stoy, Flotsam and Jetsam by W. Somerset Maugham, Mrs. Grange is suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder. The DSM-IV outlines the following symptoms for someone to be diagnosed with PTSD:
  • the person has witnessed, experienced or was confronted with an event that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury
  • the person's response to this event was fear, helplessness or horror
  • recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event
  • recurrent distressing dreams of the event
  • illusion, hallucinations, flashback episodes
  • avoidance of activities, thoughts and feelings associated with the trauma
  • difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • irritability, angry outbursts
  • difficulty concentrating
  • exaggerated startle response

OPTIONAL: Listen to a case study on PTSD and notice the extent of the childlike, incoherent behaviors. Read through all the following instructions before proceeding to the taped case study.

Next, we get to our first reading passage. Mrs. Grange (we never learn her first name) suffers from PTSD as a result of a traumatic episode involving her husband Norman and her lover Jack.

    1. Describe Mrs. Grange's PTSD symptoms.
    2. Why did Mrs. Grange feel "more at home with him [the neighbor Jack] than she did with her husband [Norman] after two years?" What was Jack's explanation for this?
    3. Mrs. Grange believed that "as far as Norman was concerned, well, what the eye didn't see the heart didn't grieve over." What did she mean by this?
    4. What do you think tipped Norman off about the affair between his wife and Jack?
    5. At the end of the story, why did Norman and his wife have to stay together?

Our second story is Pigeon Feathers. David suffers a panic attack, a disorder that frequently accompanies other anxiety disorders such as phobias. The DSM-IV outlines the following symptoms for someone to be diagnosed with a panic attack:

  • palpitations, pounding heart
  • sweating, trembling or shaking
  • shortness of breath or feelings of choking
  • chest pain or discomfort, abdonimal distress
  • feeling dizzy, lightheaded or faint
  • feelings of unreality or being detached from oneself
  • fear of losing control or going crazy
  • chills or hot flashes

OPTIONAL: Listen to a case study on undifferentiated schizophrenia and notice the extent of the childlike, incoherent behaviors. Read through all the following instructions before proceeding to the taped case study.

Now on the our second reading passage. The character being studied is David. This is a short passage but is written with great description of the fear and doom someone experiencing a panic attack can feel.

  • Pigeon Feathers is already included in the download with "Flotsam and Jetsam."
  • Answer the following questions. Title these "Pigeon Feathers Questions" (worth 5 points each):
    1. Where does this story take place?
    2. What is David's fear?
    3. What incident sets off his panic attack?
    4. Describe his panic attack.

    When you've finished paste your work into an e-mail titled "Week 5 Homework." Then e-mail your work to me at aeaptl@gmail.com.

Week 5 homework is to be completed by 3:00 pm
Monday, March 23
for full credit. It will accepted after that date for half credit.

When e-mailing your work, be sure to paste your work INTO your e-mail.
Do NOT include your work as an attachment.

This is a reminder the midterm exam is Monday, March 30
at 3:30 pm in room 146/101 at LHHS.
Lesson Copyright ©2009 Clay Sisman