Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur through personally experiencing or witnessing traumatic events, learning about such events happening to someone close to you, or repeated or extreme exposure to distressing details of traumatic events. These events can include exposure to experiences such things as death or threats of death, serious injury, violence, abuse, or distressing details of traumatic events. In PTSD this then results in symptoms which can include:
- Repeated distressing memories of the traumatic event(s).
- Recurring distressing dreams/nightmares.
- Reliving the traumatic event through things like flashbacks and other dissociative reactions leading one to feel/behave like the trauma is happening again.
- Feeling detached or like oneself or your surroundings are not real or distant.
- Intense or prolonged distress when exposed to reminders of the traumatic event(s).
- Strong avoidance of reminders of the traumatic event(s) or thoughts or feelings associated with the traumatic event(s).
- Negative changes in mood and thoughts associated with the traumatic events, which may include:
- Loss of memory for important aspects of the event;
- Strong, persistent negative beliefs about oneself, others, or the world, or distorted beliefs about the cause or consequences of the traumatic event (e.g. self-blame);
- Persistent negative emotions such as fear, anger, guilt, or shame;
- Decreased interest or participation in important activities;
- Feeling detached or estranged from others;
- Significant difficulties experiencing positive feelings (e.g. happiness, loving feelings).
- Substantial changes such as increased emotional reactivity, irritable or angry behaviour, self-destructive behaviour, hyper-alertness, easily startled, difficulties concentrating, and sleep problems.
These symptoms continue for longer than a month, cause significant distress, and interfere with important aspects of life such as work or relationships. Other mental health problems can co-occur with PTSD including depression and anxiety, or dissocation / dissociative identity disorder.
Treatment for PTSD
There are a number of effective therapies available to treat PTSD, including Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), Trauma Focused Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (TF-CBT), Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), and Neurofeedback. Your treating doctor can also speak to you about medications that are used in the treatment of PTSD.