Psychological Disorders

AP Psychology Chapter 16

Group 3

What is PTSD?

PTSD stands for post-traumatic stress disorder, and are experienced among groups who have experienced

  • a natural disaster,
  • been in a war
  • been kidnapped,
  • held captive,
  • tortured,
  • or raped

Symptoms of PTSD

  • Intrusive, upsetting memories of the event

  • Flashbacks (acting or feeling like the event is happening again)

  • Nightmares (either of the event or of other frightening things)

  • Feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma

  • Intense physical reactions to reminders of the event

  • Increased anxiety and emotional arousal

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep

  • Irritability or outbursts of anger

  • Difficulty concentrating

Understanding PTSD: Frank's story

Survivor Resiliency: “the positive capacity of people to withstand stressors and to cope with trauma”

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger"

  • understanding life is full of challenges

  • open, flexible, willing to adapt to change

  • Internal Locus of Control

    • they believe they determine their own fate -- their actions determine the outcome of an event or in their life

  • “survivor” vs. “victim”

Learning Perspective

Fear Conditioning

  • General anxiety connected to classical conditioning of fear

  • Reminders of trauma increases anxiety

    • Helps explain attentive behaviors

  • Conditioned fears may outlast our memory, or recollection, of those experiences (i.e. constant falling as infants)

  • Short list of painful and frightening events can multiply into many human fears

  • Two specific learning processes contributing to anxiety

    • Stimulus Generalization - associating conditioned stimulus with similar stimuli

    • Reinforcement and Compulsive behaviors

Observational Learning

  • Observing others’ fears.

  • Human parents’ transmission

Biological Perspective

Natural Selection

  • Biologically predisposed fear

  • Modern fears evolved from ancestral fear

  • Lack of fear for modern dangers (i.e. guns, bombs)
  • Compulsive acts exaggerate behaviors contributing to survival


  • Genetically predisposed fear
  • Increased vulnerability to anxiety disorder when afflicted relative is identical twin
  • Identical Twins develop similar phobias

The Brain

  • Generalized anxiety, panic attacks, and compulsive behaviors are biologically measurable
  • Brain scans show increased activity in certain brain areas involving impulse control and habitual behaviors (i.e. anterior cingulate cortex)
  • Fear circuits created within amygdala

Dissociative Disorders

What are they?

Dissociative disorders are conditions in which conscious awareness becomes separated (dissociated) from previous memories, thoughts, and feelings.
  • have a sense of being unreal or separated from their body
  • Loss of time or memory loss of certain events
  • Watching themselves as if in a movie

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)

United States of Tara Season 1 Promo

What is it?

Dissociative Identity Disorder is a rare dissociative disorder in which a person exhibits two or more distinct and alternating personalities. Also called multiple personality disorder.

Critics of DID

  • Are dissociative identities simply a more extreme version of normal human capacity to vary the selves we present.
  • Switch personalities when under stress
  • Each personality has a distinctive voice and mannerisms and it can seem like there are multiple people talking and living inside your head.
  • Also believed to be reinforced by its ability to relieve anxiety.
  • Was a rise increase in the 20th century and found is mostly western countries.