Kin of the deceased are prime candidates for post-traumatic stress disorder

Life will not be the same again for the Dilsukhnagar blast survivors and their families who went through a harrowing experience on February 21. While the authorities have pulled out all stops to offer medical help to them, what many have largely overlooked is the need for psychological support to the survivors as they will have to deal with the mental scars for the rest of their lives.

Families of the deceased and those who have survived are the prime candidates for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Strangely, so far none of them has been referred to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), Erragadda, from either government or private hospitals where they were treated.

The mental stress following the incident tends to have a profound impact on the survivors. For those who have lost limbs, the mere acceptance of the fact that they have to be dependent on others has the potential to push them into depression, psychologists say. After such a traumatic event, the victims may feel scared, confused and angry. According to experts, if such feelings do not go away and become worse, patients develop PTSD. The symptoms have the potential to disrupt normal activities.

“Some tend to relive the events, while others may have forgotten the memory of the actual event, which is a short-term memory loss. Trauma will also impact the way families bring up their children. Anxiety and trauma issues have to be resolved gradually over a period of time by counselling and medication,” suggests senior psychologist Dr. Bapi Kiranmayi.

The survivors have symptoms such as anxiety, fear and a tendency to avoid situations that remind them of the traumatic event, she says. “There are enough treatment options. It’s just that there is a lack of awareness among patients and sometimes even among doctors. There is also a stigma attached to mental health, so victims prefer to suffer in silence rather than speak out,” observes Dr. V. Pramod Kumar, Superintendent, IMH, Erragadda.

The phantom limb

Sometimes amputees feel that the missing limb is still attached to the body and is functioning normally like other body parts. The condition has the potential to cause phantom pains, a condition in which the amputee has the perception of pain on the amputated limb.

Indian neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran, who was hailed as the Marco Polo of neuroscience by Richard Dawkins, developed a mirror box therapy to alleviate phantom limb pain. The mirror box has two mirrors in the centre of a box, which makes patients feel as if they still have a limb after it was amputated.

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