PTSD – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is estimated to affect one in every three people who have had a traumatic experience.

Although PTSD can be identified in many narratives throughout history, it gained prominence after World War One. Soldiers who had been on the frontline returned with emotional difficulties and were struggling to re-integrate into society. Interpersonal relationships were extremely difficult for these combatants since they were emotionally distant and subject to aggressive outbursts. Apart from that, they had symptoms that included depression and anxiety. This condition has been known under many different names, from “shell shock” to “war neurosis” and “combat stress reaction”. It was only in the 1980s that the term post-traumatic stress disorder was introduced, and it is this term that is commonly used today.

In order for a diagnosis of PTSD to be made, the person must have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. This trauma could be a once-off event or one that involves prolonged trauma. The event can include serious road accidents, personal assaults, prolonged sexual or violent abuse, or traumatic birth. Other events such as natural disasters, terrorist attacks, or the diagnosis of a life-threatening condition can also be defined as trauma.

It is common to experience some short-term distress following a trauma, but this distress frequently resolves without the need for professional intervention. However, roughly one in three people who experience trauma do go on to develop Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – a severe condition that can cause flashbacks, angry outbursts, and insomnia.

What is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is short for Post-traumatic Stress disorder, an anxiety disorder that can develop after being involved in, or witnessing, very stressful, frightening, or distressing events.

What are the symptoms?

In the majority of cases, some of the symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) develop in the first month after a traumatic event. However, there can be a delay of months or even years before symptoms start to appear. The specific signs can vary between individuals, but generally, people will experience flashbacks or nightmares, physical sensations, such as pain and sweating, irritability, angry outbursts, and sleeping problems. Many people with PTSD can also experience other mental health problems like depression and anxiety, they can engage in self-harming or destructive behaviour, and show physical symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and chest pains.

Can children get PTSD?

Children can also experience PTSD and may have similar symptoms to adults, such as trouble sleeping and nightmares. There are some symptoms though that are more specific to children such as bedwetting, feeling unusually anxious when separated from a parent, and re-enacting the traumatic event through play.

How is it treated?

The main treatment for PTSD includes psychotherapy and medication. Before treatment commences, a detailed assessment of your symptoms will be documented.

As the therapist and the doctor work together as a team, treatment should include both health professionals. There are a number of therapeutic techniques that can be used for the treatment of PTSD. One technique is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which helps you manage the symptoms by changing how you think and act. Your doctor may also prescribe medication that will assist you.

If you are struggling with your mental health and would like to speak to someone about how you are feeling, you can contact Laurian Ward Psychologist.