Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

What is it? 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a type of trauma-related mental health disorder. It can develop after a person experiences or witnesses a terrifying event, particularly those that threaten life or physical integrity. It’s important to note that while PTSD is a type of trauma, not all traumatic experiences result in PTSD. The development of PTSD depends on a variety of factors, including the nature of the traumatic event, the individual’s psychological makeup, and their social support network. 

Symptoms 

Full-blown PTSD typically has four clusters of symptoms. 

Intrusive memories: 

  • Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event 
  • Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks) 
  • Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event 
  • Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the traumatic event 

Avoidance: 

  • Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event 
  • Avoiding places, activities, or people that remind you of the traumatic event 

Negative changes in thinking and mood: 

  • Negative thoughts about yourself, other people, or the world 
  • Hopelessness about the future 
  • Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event 
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships 
  • Feeling detached from family and friends 
  • Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed 
  • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions 
  • Feeling emotionally numb 

Changes in physical and emotional reactions: 

  • Being easily startled or frightened 
  • Always being on guard for danger 
  • Self-destructive behaviour, such as drinking too much or driving too fast 
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Trouble concentrating 
  • Irritability, angry outbursts, or aggressive behaviour 
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame 

Please note that these symptoms can vary greatly among individuals.  

Causes 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. The exact cause of PTSD is not known, but it can be triggered by various traumatic events such as physical or sexual assault, death of a loved one, an accident, war, or natural disaster. Serious medical conditions and ongoing emotional abuse or childhood neglect can also lead to PTSD. Other risk factors include a family history of depression and anxiety, having experienced traumatic events such as childhood abuse, having previously diagnosed depression or anxiety, and substance abuse such as excessive drinking or drug use. It’s important to note that not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD; individual reactions to trauma can vary greatly. 

Interventions 

Treatments for trauma include trauma-focused psychological interventions such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, and eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR). These focus on education, stress management techniques, and helping the person to confront feared situations and distressing memories. Other therapeutic techniques for trauma include Accelerated resolution therapy, Hypnotherapy, Narrative therapy.