Art Therapy and PTSD Research Proposal

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Art Therapy and PTSD

Art Therapy Utilized in Cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Art has always played a major role in human life and development. Some of our knowledge of our earliest ancestors comes from the drawings and sculptures they left behind. Art is an essential part of what it is to be human, and can be utilized for a variety of purposes including communication, expression, and even therapy. Art therapy is known to have beneficial results for individuals suffering with a variety of cognitive disorders, such as that of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is an anxiety disorder which plagues patients after the event or multiple events of trauma which instill painful memories and later manifests itself as a wide variety of behavioral and physical symptoms depending on the individual. Young children exposed to trauma and war veterans who have witnessed the horrors of battle are particularly vulnerable to developing PTSD. Recent research has utilized art therapy as a methodology to help alleviate the stress associated with PTSD and remove some of the emotional pain experienced by sufferers through catharsis. Through utilizing the various assessment models available to the practice of art therapy, PTSD can be diagnosed and treated through non-verbal expression which proves less complicated than traditional therapies which rely on interviews. Art therapy can prove successful in relieving the symptoms f PTSD, especially in those most vulnerable to its development.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Research Proposal on Art Therapy and PTSD Assignment

One disorder in particular which has been known to use art therapy for a wide variety of reasons is that of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This proves to be an anxiety disorder which occurs after the individual patient has had to deal with a traumatic event of some sort (Riley 2004). As a traumatic experience unfolds, human nature responds to a primitive form of survival; flight or fight. When a person becomes overwhelmed in a traumatic experience, that individual's verbal consciousness fails. It then enters the nonverbal mind. This creates a dangerous situation which can result in PTSD. This stress can then manifest itself in a variety of ways and symptoms, which can affect the sufferer for short or long periods of time, depending on the nature of the trauma.

In many cases, individuals have higher risk factors of developing PTSD if they have been exposed to earlier traumatic experiences, a bad familial environment, alcohol or drug abuse, and a lack of social support to recover from their traumatic experience (Riley 2004). Most cases of PTSD prove to have symptoms which manifest themselves as three different categories; the first of which deals with the individual re-living the traumatic experience through dreams, nightmares, flashbacks while awake, heightened anxiety, and even hallucinations in the most extreme cases. These symptoms plague patients and can create real disturbances in the otherwise normal life of an adult or child. Another category of symptoms includes that known as avoidance symptoms. These symptoms manifest themselves as avoidance from strong emotional contact in fear of anxieties surfacing, avoiding people and locations which trigger reminders of the traumatic event, loss of memory, and an overall feeling of numbness and detachment from the external world (Riley 2004). With the exhibition of such symptoms, the patient finds themselves increasing cut off intentionally from the external world around them which had initially fostered the trauma that created such stress. The final category is the most noticeable to external viewers and is known as arousal symptoms, which mainly include issues with change in behavior and routines. These symptoms include insomnia, extreme and noticeable anger and irritability, lack of concentration, and nervousness (Riley 2004). Along with the psychological ramifications of PTSD, some patients are also plagued with physical symptoms such digestive problems, chest pain, head aches, and dizziness.

In many cases, symptoms differ from individual to individual based on the acuteness of occurrence and how long those symptoms last or lasted. Acute PTSD occurs directly after the event for a short duration of time (Riley 2004). Acute PTSD normally lasts from around one to three months of exhibiting symptoms, followed by a relief of such stress for various reasons. Chronic symptoms last much longer, over three months after the occurrence of the traumatic event, while delayed onset symptoms can appear months after the event. Children and veterans deal mainly with chronic and delayed onset PTSD due to the extreme nature of their trauma and complete helplessness during the event or multiple events which created the trauma. This anxiety disorder has been plaguing Americans for generations, and is said to have no absolute cure, only a variety of methods used to help individuals cope with their fears and anxieties created out of a single traumatic event or a series of painful events.

Particular demographics prove much more vulnerable to developing TSD after cases of both physical and mental trauma. In many cases, war veterans prove particularly vulnerable to an onset of PTSD, thus creating colloquial names for PTSD such as "shell shock" or "battle fatigue" (Riley 2004). Cases linked to war can be traced back almost as long as war has been examined as a factor in psychological health. More recently, the Vietnam war produced thousands of soldiers returning home with symptoms of PTSD, and many more were coupled with heavy drug addiction as a way to cope with the horrors of such a vicious jungle way. Today, as the war in Iraq and Afghanistan rages on, more and more soldiers are returning home with stress related to PTSD. In fact, one 2004 study (Hoge et al.) conducted early on in the war found an astonishing 12-20% of soldiers and Marines returning from Iraq to have symptoms of PTSD. That is a relatively large amount, especially to return to a society which expects its soldiers to be able to deal with the psychological ramifications of modern warfare. Yet, around 6-11% of soldiers coming out of Afghanistan were also exhibiting signs of PTSD related to their combat experiences, (Hogue et al. 2004). These war veterans were dealing with the stress of seeing dead bodies, killing, and having people close to them killed. As a result, this stress can quickly turn into the anxiety driven PTSD. After a traumatic event, the individual suffering from PTSD has intensified fears, anxieties, and feelings of helplessness which then have negative ramifications on that individual's daily and long-term life.

Other than war, typical experiences leading to PTSD include rape, assault, severe natural disasters, car accidents, and abuse (Riley 2004). Children have a heightened vulnerability to PTSD in cases of physical or sexual abuse and other traumatic events which might otherwise be dealt with properly in an adult mind. Due to the fact that children have very little control over the trauma, many are prone to developing PTSD as a result of particularly painful experiences. This is then only further complicated with their lack of mastery of language, which can make traditional therapy difficult in exploring and relieving emotional stress from a particular event. Thus, even with treatment, PTSD in many children can go unchecked and relatively unrelieved based on a lack of ability to explore the trauma through traditional therapeutic practices which rely on the construct of language as an important element to relieving harmful stress associated with PTSD. When stress occurs, most children are unprepared to deal with it properly, and then severely react which only increases their vulnerability to developing PTSD (Perry 1999). Children exhibit a wide variety of PTSD related symptoms including impulsivity, distractibility, dysphoria, numbing, social avoidance, dissociation, insomnia, aggressive play often re-enacting out their lived traumatic experiences, poor school performance, and delayed development (Perry 1999). These unique symptoms exhibited by children dealing with PTSD make diagnosis and proper treatment difficult for practitioners, especially as the diagnosis is left unchecked for years after the trauma. The true source of the problem continues to be buried deep within the child's mind and is masked by a variety of symptoms which can look like other disorders such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Yet despite such increased risk and potential damage of PTSD in children, relatively little research has been conducted devoted strictly to managing PTSD in young kids.

There are a variety of ways currently used to treat and diagnose PTSD, including that of art therapy. Typically, cognitive behavior therapy is used to help teach PTSD patients to manage their stress and anxieties in order to further distance themselves from the traumatic event (Riley 2004). Unfortunately, many war veterans suffering from PTSD fail to get proper treatment based on the image of a negative stigma, resulting in potential psychological harm and years of dealing with the stress and anxieties of PTSD (Hoge et al. 2004).

Yet, for those individuals dealing with PTSD, whether from war experiences or other traumatic events, who do seek treatment find a wide variety of options available.

Unfortunately, in today's modern world, many children are being exposed to traumatic events (Wethington et al. 2008). These events then lead to the potential of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Art Therapy and PTSD" Research Proposal in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Art Therapy and PTSD.  (2009, January 21).  Retrieved July 12, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Art Therapy and PTSD."  21 January 2009.  Web.  12 July 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Art Therapy and PTSD."  January 21, 2009.  Accessed July 12, 2020.