Post Traumatic Stress
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
You may develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following a very alarming, stressful or distressing event. Traumatic events can range from personal experiences such as a car crash, sexual abuse, a house fire or the loss of a child to wider experiences, such as a natural disaster, being caught up in war and conflict or being witness to a disturbing incident. 1 in 3 people who’ve experienced serious trauma go on to suffer from PTSD. So what is it, why does it happen and how does it affect us?
WHAT DOES PTSD FEEL LIKE?
The aftermath of traumatic incidents can affect different people in very different ways. You may find yourself reliving the experience, either through unwanted and distressing flashbacks or even through dreams. It may also feel as though the trauma is happening all over again, or you might experience worrying physical sensations when faced with reminders of the trauma, such as difficulty breathing or an increased heart rate. Alternatively, you may find yourself avoiding the trauma. This can range from avoiding situations or people that remind you of what happened, to forgetting details of the trauma completely. You may also feel detached from the world around you. It can be difficult to know whether you are suffering from PTSD. Here’s a quick round up of some common physical, mental and behavioural symptoms:
- Your body: Difficulty sleeping, crying, nausea, tight chest, feeling exhausted, dizziness, panicky, pounding heart. ○ Your feelings: Depressed or low, numb, isolated, angry, irritable, restless, jumpy, detached, at a loss, frightened, anxious, guilty, ashamed, tense, out of control.
- Your thoughts: Flashbacks to the trauma, inability to concentrate, constantly worrying, self-critical thoughts, angry thoughts, ‘what if’ and ‘why’ thoughts relating to the trauma, nightmares, blaming yourself for the trauma.
- Your behaviour: Avoiding situations that remind you of the trauma, pacing, snapping, change in drinking/smoking habits, change in eating habits, avoiding company, avoiding being alone, struggling to relax, experiencing problems with your relationships, feeling dependent on others.
Have you been experiencing these symptoms following a traumatic event? Then it’s possible that you are suffering from PTSD.
WHY DO WE EXPERIENCE PTSD?
Trauma can have a huge impact. It can destroy our sense of stability, safety and purpose and can make the world seem frightening and unpredictable. It can also affect the way we view ourselves. Is there something that we could have done to avoid it or to have changed the outcome? In most circumstances, trauma happens without warning and doesn’t give us any time to brace ourselves or adjust to the changes it may bring. Furthermore, it’s usually something that we’ve never experienced before and therefore we don’t know how to react. Due to this shock, disruption, fear and distress, it is thought that our minds hold onto the trauma by way of protecting us and ensuring that we are prepared if it ever happens again. This then results in PTSD symptoms. Some may experience these symptoms immediately, whilst others may experience a delay. As difficult and distressing as PTSD feels, there is help and treatment available.
Understanding how PTSD is caused and how it affects us is the first step in learning how to tackle it.