PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a condition caused by experiencing, or being witness too, a terrifying or traumatic event. Formally known as shell shock or battle fatigue syndrome, this does not mean that it exclusively affects only war veterans or people that work in the emergency services.
Whilst many of us will experience some kind of trauma during our lifetime, most of us will recover through self-care and the support of family and friends. If your symptoms worsen or last for a period longer than a few weeks and start to have a negative impact on your day to day life, then you may have PTSD.
PTSD can be caused by a variety of traumatic experiences some of which can include:
· Being involved in, or witnessing a serious road traffic accident
· Giving birth and having a difficult or traumatic time
· Being sectioned due to mental health problems
· Experiencing natural disasters, like an earthquake or tsunami
· Being the victim of kidnapping, robbery, physical assault or being held hostage
· Suffered from sexual assault or abuse
· Having a job that means you deal with traumatic situations
· Witnessing someone take their own life or die.
· Being diagnosed with a life threatening illness or being in intensive care
· Having been the victim of abuse or been bullied in childhood
Symptoms of PTSD will generally occur within three months of the incident happening and will have lasted for a minimum of a month, usually several months or even years, and cause significant problems functioning on a daily basis. In some cases it is possible to develop symptoms years afterwards.
Symptoms of PTSD
Our bodies will naturally produce adrenaline and cortisol in response to feeling in danger or under threat. This is what’s known as the “flight or fight” response and is the bodies way of self-preservation. When you have PTSD the body continues to produce these hormones even though there is no present danger, which can be distressing. Symptoms fall into four types or categories these are:
This can involve unwanted and distressing recurring memories of the event, upsetting dreams and nightmares and reliving the event in flashbacks as though it was happening again. You can also suffer severe emotional distress or physical responses to things that remind you of what happened.
Avoiding places, events, activities and people that remind you of what happened as well as not wanting to talk or think about it.
Negative thoughts and feelings
Having negative thoughts about yourself, the world and the people in it, as well as feeling hopelessness about the future, or having suicidal thoughts. Difficulty in feeling positive emotions often feeling numb and lacking interest in doing things you liked. This can cause problems maintaining close relationships and result in feeling detached from friends and family. It can also cause problems with your memory and difficulty remembering important details of what happened.
Changes to emotional and physical responses
Trouble concentrating and sleeping, feeling overwhelming shame or guilt. Being easily frightened or startled and vigilant for potential danger. Mood swings including irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behaviour. Developing self-destructive behaviours like drinking to much, using drugs or driving dangerously.
If you are struggling you should confide in your family and friends, there are also organisations available and information on-line. Initially you should see your doctor who can prescribe antianxiety medication or antidepressants to help manage your symptoms.
Therapy can help you work through your trauma and focus on positive thinking using therapies such as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), psychodynamic therapy or prolonged exposure therapy. Written by Jan, Jeana and Wendy at Barnsley Hypnosis and Counselling (UK). For more free information click above link.