Post Traumatic Stress
WHAT IS IT?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological and physical anxiety disorder caused by a very frightening or distressing event or a prolonged traumatic experience, either experienced or witnessed.
Serious accidents, physical or sexual assault, childhood or domestic abuse, war and conflict, torture, childbirth experiences, serious health problems (such as being admitted to ICU) or exposure to traumatic events at work (including remote exposure)
This can have a significant impact on your day-to-day life. Your body and mind may feel that there is constant threat around. You can feel stuck and continue to live in fear even when there is no threat present, or it is long gone.
As uncomfortable as this is, it a natural physical and mental reaction to a traumatic event that happened to us. It is estimated that 1 in 3 people who experience a traumatic event will develop PTSD. It is possible for 2 people to undergo the same distressing event where one will become traumatised and the other relatively unscathed. PTSD can occur immediately after a traumatic event, or at any later date.
Symptoms can be constant or intermittent and vary, but generally fall into the 4 categories below.
- RE-EXPERIENCING THE EVENT
This is the most typical symptom of PTSD. Re-experiencing is when it can feel that the event is happening again. Spontaneous, involuntary memories of the traumatic event may occur. Or recurrent dreams, nightmares or flashbacks. Repetitive and distressing images or sensations can occur. Physical sensations can include shaking, feeling nauseous, sweating or pain.
Sometimes people can have constant negative thoughts about their experience and question themselves, which can prevent them coming to terms with the event. For example ‘why me?’, and ‘could I have done anything to stop it?’. This can lead to problematic guilt or shame.
- AVOIDANCE, EMOTIONAL NUMBING and HYPERAROUSAL
You may avoid any reminders of the event, like certain places or people. You may not want to talk to people about the event, or try to push the memories away with distractions eg overworking, certain hobbies.
You may attempt to deal with your feelings by trying not to feel anything at all.
This may lead to becoming withdrawn, isolation or giving up activities you previously enjoyed
PTSD can cause hyperarousal. This is where you may find it hard to relax or be very anxious. You might be constantly aware of threats, so hypervigilant, and easily startled. Hyperarousal can sometimes lead to irritability, anger outbursts, sleeping problems such as insomnia, difficulty concentrating, reckless or self-destructive behaviour or racing heart.
- OTHER PROBLEMS
- Mental health problems; Depression, anxiety, phobias.
- Self-harming or destructive behaviour; drug or alcohol misuse.
- Physical Symptoms; headaches, stomach aches, dizziness, chest pain
- Work-related problems
- Breakdown of relationships.
Managing your PTSD
Several different therapies have been shown to eliminate or considerably reduce the symptoms of PTSD. We will discuss which option would best suit your needs in the counselling assessment.