What is PTSD?
PTSD may develop when someone is exposed to a life threatening event. Many survivors of trauma will recover with time, however others will develop a stress reaction that will impact upon their ability to maintain their daily functions.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
PTSD is generally characterised by three areas of symptoms; relieving the trauma, avoidance type behaviours and a feeling of always being on guard. To fit a diagnosis of PTSD the following criteria must be met (DSM 5):
- Exposure to an actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violence.
- Recurrent, involuntary and intrusive distressing memories of the traumatic event
- Recurrent distressing dreams
- Avoidance of distressing memories, places, reminders
- Change in mood and way of thinking, ie; increase in negativity, diminished interest, feelings of detachment.
- Increase in irritability
- Poor concentration
- Sleep disturbance
What causes PTSD?
When a person experiences a traumatic life threatening event (eg: car accident, assault, sexual or physical abuse, war) or witnesses these events, a 'normal' stress reaction will result, often characterised with the symptoms lists on this sheet. This is very typical and is required for your brain to process something abnormal that has threatened the fragility of life. A diagnosis of PTSD occurs when an individual becomes 'stuck' in these symptoms and they have occurred for 1 month or more. There are occasions when the reaction is delayed and these symptoms do not present for months after the event.
How can PTSD be treated?
Medication can assist with PTSD symptoms, however psychological intervention is highly beneficial. Psycho-education (learning and understand the signs of PTSD and how to think and behave differently) has proven to be highly advantageous. Developing new coping strategies, different ways of thinking about the symptoms and the feelings which are occurring within your body and mind, assist in the recovery of PTSD. Often other problems arise with PTSD, relationship breakdowns, substance abuse, depression, generalised anxiety. Psychological intervention will also assist with these areas of distress.