Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a mental illness caused by exposure to either a single event, a series of events or prolonged exposure to traumatic events. You do not have to have directly experienced the event, you could be a witness or have been told about it 3rd hand. There are many known causes of PTSD:

  • Combat exposure
  • Childhood sexual abuse
  • Rape/sexual assault
  • An accident
  • Sudden death of a loved one
  • Being threatened with violence, including domestic violence
  • Life threatening medical diagnosis

An initial reaction to such an event might be shock and disbelief. Over time this can fade. More troubling thoughts and feelings can then emerge. These might include anger, helplessness or fear. It can be difficult to process your memories of the event, or understand what happened and why.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms may appear immediately or they may not appear until years after the event. Each individual will experience symptoms in varying degrees of frequency and intensity:

  • Reliving the trauma through nightmares, flashbacks or having frequent, upsetting thoughts about the event. During these times you will experience physical responses that will make you feel like you are ‘back in’ the event
  • Avoidance of places, people or situations that remind you of the event
  • Being on edge and ‘on the look out’ for a repeat of the traumatic event. This could include having difficultly going to sleep, being on guard for danger, difficulty concentrating
  • Negative thoughts about yourself, others or the world
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
  • Increase in drug or alcohol use to block out distressing thoughts
  • Depression and anxiety

What are the therapies that can help? 

Related issues

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Coping with PTSD