The phenomenon of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is not new; it has been known for many years, though under several different names including “shellshock” and “battle fatigue.” These other names reflect the common association that PTSD is a disorder experienced by members of the military. However, anybody can develop PTSD, any age and any gender (Bermudez, Benjamin, Porter, Saunders, Myers, & Dutton, 2013; Javidi & Yadollahie, 2012; Pitman et al., 2012; PTSD Alliance, 2001). PTSD is considered to be the “only major mental disorder for which a cause is considered to be known: that is, an event that involves threat to the physical integrity of oneself or others and induces a response of intense fear, helplessness or horror” (Pitman et al., 2012, p. 769). PTSD is very difficult and can severely interfere with one’s life. Fortunately there are many organizations which focus on this disorder. One such organization is the PTSD Alliance.
The PTSD Alliance (2001) is “group of professional and advocacy organizations that have joined forces to provide educational resources to individuals diagnosed with PTSD and their loved ones; those at risk for developing PTSD; and medical, healthcare and other frontline professionals.” Its members include the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA), the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS), Sidran Institute, and Beachway Therapy Center. It is supported by the Beachway Therapy Center, an addiction treatment center based in Florida, and a grant from Pfizer Inc. It is difficult to identify specific cultures that the organization serves. The organization stresses that anybody can become a victim of PTSD and that PTSD can develop from a variety of causes, none of which are unique to any one culture. In fact, many of the events which PTSD Alliance identifies as being the most likely to prompt an individual to develop PTSD are unfortunately rather common, including the sudden death of a family member, natural disaster, witnessing violence, someone (usually a child) developing a life-threatening illness, and serious injury or accident, such as a car accident (PTSD Alliance, 2001). The website is very clear about the fact that women are significantly more likely to develop PTSD (PTSD Alliance, 2001), being more likely to be the victim of rape, physical assault, or interpersonal violence such as partner violence (Bermudez et al., 2013; Javidi & Yadollahie, 2012).
Given that it is physically located in Florida, it is likely that the organization serves the general public and therefore American culture and Latino/Hispanic cultures, given the density of individuals living in Florida who are from those cultures. Symptoms of PTSD include “severe anxiety, dissociative symptoms, dissociative amnesia, poor concentration, sleep disturbance, and derealization,” though other symptoms are possible but depend on the kind of trauma experienced (Javidi & Yadollahie, 2012). It can either be acute PTSD, meaning it lasts for three months or less; if it persists for longer than three months, it’s called chronic PTSD (Javidi & Yadollahie, 2012). There is a third kind of PTSD called delayed-onset PTSD which “refers to a condition where the disease onset occurs at least six months after the traumatic event” (Javidi & Yadollahie, 2012). The interpretation of these symptoms across various cultures would depend on the sophistication of that culture’s understanding of mental illness. Van der Kolk and McFarlane (2012) note that the cultural context of trauma has not received as much attention as it should and should be considered a significant element of assessing and treating PTSD.
The impact of culture as it affects the interpretation of symptoms rests mostly in how that culture understands and regards mental illness. However, culture undoubtedly has more influence on recommendations of services for that organization. It might encourage a Latino person with a strong Roman Catholic identity to seek church-based support. They may also direct individuals to other organizations which offer Spanish-speaking services (which the Alliance does not appear to offer). One thing worth mentioning as well is that different cultures regard “female” problems differently. It is possible that if the Alliance encountered a female individual from a culture which had vastly different attitudes towards feminine sexual health from American norms, it would like reach out to the ACOG for assistance.