There are now many precise diagnostic tests available to many medical fields but not to psychiatry. Many doctors have access to all sorts of new technologies that allow them to make precise diagnoses that can eliminate unnecessary surgery or, if surgery is necessary, these tools enable the doctor to be far more precise and have even allowed some surgeries to be done on an outpatient basis.
Psychiatric diagnoses, however, depend on the observational abilities of the examiner and, therefore, there is the possibility for error. Even a skilled examiner brings his/her own blind spots and prejudices into the process.
There have been small breakthroughs in psychiatric diagnostic tools, but most laboratory test are too imprecise and cannot be used widely. A new promising test using data collected with magneto encephalography (MEG), however, is able to pinpoint the existence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD).
PTSD is characterized by the re-experiencing of an extremely traumatic event. One may be haunted in dreams or may experience so-called disassociated states during which the patient behaves as though experiencing the traumatic event at the moment.
As a result of PTSD, the patient tries to avoid any stimuli and situation associated with a trauma. One develops an overall numbing of one's general emotional responsiveness which often results in social withdrawal and markedly diminshed interest in previously enjoyed activities. This is often accompanied by a feeling of detachment and estrangement from others including the inability to have loving feelings.
In spite of detachment and a seeming lack of interest, there can be a heightened excitability -- exaggerated startle repsonses, being on guard and hyper-vigilant about possible danger, difficulty concentrating, outbursts of anger and frequent difficulties with sleep.
These symptoms of PTSD may lead to severe incapacitation in every area of one's life including learning, loving, working and socializing. Often the patient feels hopeless about his/her prospects for the future or even his/her longevity.
Although skilled clinicians are able to diagnose and treat PTSD, it involves lengthy evaluations which do not always result in an accurate outcome. With the new and welcome MEG test, when in doubt we will be able to diagnose PTSD faster and then patients can be quickly triaged and directed into the most effective treatments.
I'm Dr. Blokar. For more information, click on the following resources: