What is PTSD?

A traumatic incident can be anything that is out of the ordinary range of daily events and is deeply distressing for someone such as an accident, a robbery, an attack or being witness to a traumatic event such as a death.  It is normal to experience stress after a trauma, but symptoms normally reduce after some time.  If the symptoms persist for over a month or are very extreme, it may indicate the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  PTSD is estimated to affect about 1 in every 3 people who experience a traumatic event.

People who repeatedly experience traumatic situations such as severe neglect, abuse or violence often develop complex PTSD.  Symptoms of complex PTSD are similar to PTSD but may not develop until years after the event.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

  • Re-experiencing- A very common way that people re-experience traumatic events is when distressing, unwanted thoughts, memories or images of parts of the trauma suddenly pop into their mind.  These memories can be so vivid that it temporarily feels like the event is happening again, this is called a flashback.  People can also experience nightmares of the traumatic event or other frightening situations.
  • Hyper arousal - another common reaction to trauma is to be over-aroused or hyper-alert.  You may feel tense, agitated, jumpy or hyper-vigilant.  You may have a racing heart, tense muscles, sweat more easily and have trouble sleeping.  All these problems can lead you to feeling irritable and angry.
  • Avoidance - avoidance symptoms can be seen as a person’s attempt to cope with feeling threatened and unsafe.  You may find yourself avoiding other people, places and things that remind you of the trauma.  Distressing thoughts and feelings are also avoided.  Avoiding painful feelings and thoughts about the trauma can also lead to feeling emotionally numb, empty or detached and cut off from other people.  It is also common for people to loose interest in things they once enjoyed.

Other symptoms include

  • Depression
  • Drug and alcohol misuse
  • Anger
  • Self-harm
  • Guilt/Shame
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Unexplained physical symptoms

Psychological therapy is highly effective in helping manage symptoms of PTSD.  Our specialist psychologists are highly skilled in the application of recommended therapies in the treatment of PTSD including Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR).  If you would like to talk to someone about PTSD, please book in a free initial consultation.

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