Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Definition: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sometimes known as post-traumatic stress injury, is a type of mental health condition that is triggered by a traumatic event.
About: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that occurs as a result of experiencing a traumatic event or events. This may include, but is not limited to, living through an event, such as sexual assault, abuse, bullying, serious health problems, losing a loved one, traumatic birth, natural disasters, being kidnapped, being involved in a car accident, doing a job where you repeatedly hear or see distressing things, witnessing an event or someone getting hurt, etc.
It’s important to note that PTSD can impact anyone. It is not a choice nor a sign of weakness if an individual experiences this condition. Everyone’s journey and experience with trauma is different, it doesn’t make anyone’s experiences any less valid.
Symptoms: There are often three main categories, or clusters, of PTSD symptoms. These are avoidance, intrusion and hyperarousal. Those with PTSD will experience symptoms in different ways. This doesn’t make anyone’s journey anymore or any less valid, it’s just important to remember that your own journey is unique to you.
- Avoiding triggers
- Avoiding anything that reminds an individual of their trauma
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Reckless or self-destructive behaviours
- Feeling constantly 'on' and needing to stay busy
- Feeling on edge:
- Intense anxiety or panic when reminded of the trauma
- Easily upset or angry
- Feeling unsafe
- Hypervigilance or extreme alertness
- Inability to concentrate
- Feeling jumpy or easily startled
- Insomnia, or inability to fall asleep and/or stay asleep
- Reliving the trauma:
- Flashbacks of the trauma or traumas - there are several kinds of flashbacks
- Seeing or imagining scenes or partial images of the trauma
- Emotional flashbacks or feeling emotions that you experienced during the trauma
- Noticing certain smells, tastes, or sounds associated with the trauma
- Physical flashbacks, such as feeling pain or pressure
- Intrusive thoughts
- Physical symptoms of anxiety, such as nausea, pain, sweating, etc
- Intense distress when faced with reminders of the trauma, also known as ‘triggers’
Treatment: Treating PTSD may feel daunting at first, but finding proper support can help an individual live a life free of their trauma. Treatments may include:
- Medications. For some individuals, antidepressants or sleep medications can be useful when treating PTSD symptoms.
- Psychotherapy. There are a range of therapies that have been found to be useful for those who have experienced trauma and have PTSD, these are cognitive processing therapy (CPT), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (TF-CBT), dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT), emotional freedom techniques (EFT), prolonged exposure therapy, eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR), stress inoculation therapy (SIT), narrative exposure therapy (NET) and family or group therapy.
People may experience some or all of the above symptoms. In some individuals, there may be additional symptoms including psychosis, depression, and others.
I have a loved one experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, how can I help?
If you have a loved one who is struggling, simply having an open conversation about how you can best support them can mean the world. There are some ways you can support a loved one, but also remember that you are a friend, family member, partner, etc and not a professional. You can’t expect yourself to be everything for everyone.
Ways to support a loved one include:
- Learning about this trauma and PTSD is immensely helpful. It can help you and your loved one to better work with what they’re going through.
- Be mindful of them and their triggers. Asking them how you can support them and what to do when they’re triggered can be a big help to both of you.
- Perhaps offer to help them with chores, send them a message to let them know you’re thinking of them, or something else to help with their day-to-day life.
- Be patient and supportive of them.
- It’s equally important to also remember to take time out for yourself for self-care.
It’s important for those struggling to know that you can fight and recover from post-traumatic stress disorder. You can find ways to heal from it. There is always hope and people who care about you who will support you on your journey.
Voices of Hope wants you to know that your life has value and you deserve help, care, and support. You can fight PTSD. You can heal from it and live the life you want and deserve. We understand how difficult mental illnesses can be, but you are worthy, and you are strong. You can get through this. Reach out and keep fighting. You are not alone in your fight. We believe in you. And remember that there is ALWAYS hope.
Resources and links:
Voices of Hope does not offer direct mental health services and our team is not comprised of trained mental health professionals. If you require assistance, we recommend visiting our resources page for helpful information.
If you are in immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, or need advice for someone in your life that is at risk of immediate harm to themselves please contact your local emergency services.