Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder may emerge months or sometimes years after a traumatic experience, affecting your ability to lead your live. It’s not just large scale disasters that cause emotional trauma. Every day, people are involved in, or witness, events such as road accidents, muggings, and sexual or physical assaults that cause them deep emotional injury. There is no doubt that the reactions that may follow can seriously hamper and interfere with their lives.
If you have faced a traumatic experience, you may simply feel emotionally numb to begin with, and feelings of distress may not emerge straight away. But sooner or later, you are likely to develop emotional and physical reactions, and changes in behaviour which may include some of the following:
- Reliving aspects of the trauma – vivid flashbacks / intrusive thoughts & images / nightmares / intense distress at real or symbolic reminders
- Avoiding memories – keeping busy / repressing memories / feeling detached / being unable to express affection / feeling there’s no point in planning for the future
- Being easily aroused – disturbed sleep / lack of concentration / extreme alertness / pain response to anything to do with trauma / irritability and aggressive behaviour
These responses are all quite normal. Many people find the symptoms will disappear in due course. It’s when they last for longer than a month, or when they are very extreme, that PTSD may be diagnosed.
Dealing with a traumatic event?
In the aftermath, many survivors have said that what they found most useful, to begin with, was practical advice, information and support with day to day tasks.
Expressing your feelings, by talking, may be the best way of coming to terms with the experience. Everyone will have their own unique response and will need to proceed at their own pace. Survivors may turn to friends, relatives and colleagues when they decide they do want to talk about what they’ve been through. Many of those who do develop PTSD are able to come to terms with the traumatic experience, in this way, within a matter of months.
It can be very helpful for people to share their experiences with others who have been through something similar. This can be an extremely important step in moving away from isolation, from the role of victim and passive recipient of professional help, towards regaining control of their lives. If you have been suffering from distressing symptoms for months after a traumatic event, you should see your GP, who can refer you for specialist help.
Friends and family should encourage sufferers to talk about it; allow them to be upset; not let them get into a pattern of avoiding situations that remind them of the trauma and help them to access professional support.
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