PTSD is an anxiety disorder characterised by a cycle of greatly debilitating reactions to traumatic events or situations. The reactions may persist long after the trauma or may appear some time or even years after the trauma.
As the personal / subjective experience of the affected person should be considered in defining a stressful event or situation as traumatic, over the years many more types of events have been regarded as traumatic by the experts and the general public. What these events have in common is the potential of being life threatening either for the PTSD affected persons or the others.
Events / situations that could potentially lead to PTSD:
In my experience of counselling children I have come across PTSD like symptoms after children watched on TV news about life-threatening events such as bushfires, floods, earthquakes, or various accidents.
1. Frequent re-enactment of the trauma
The person repeatedly experiences the resurfacing of traumatic events, while being awake or asleep.
The PTSD affected person may experience some aspects of trauma while consciously engaged in other activities. Some clients report that they find themselves "actors in a very scary movie about their own lives" while performing some of their most dreadful experiences. The flashbacks (i.e. repetitive and intrusive thoughts and images) are so strong that the PTSD affected persons really believe that they re-live the trauma. Often the level of anxiety and the reactions of the body are similar to those experienced at the time of the event, and this causes intense emotional upset. Also, the traumatic experiences may resurface in repeated and highly disturbing nightmares.
Consideration to the personal / subjective experiences of the PTSD affected person should be given to understand this symptom.
Avoidance of stimuli associated to the event
The persons may try to avoid the places, the areas, the times or anything they believe it might be related to the trauma. For example, a woman who was a victim of rape which happened in a forest also reported that since that experience she had been avoiding any park in metropolitan Melbourne.
Avoidance of thoughts and feelings associated to the trauma
The persons may try to "control" the thoughts and feelings associated to the trauma by "blocking" them or refusing to talk about trauma-related thoughts, images and feelings. In many cases people's attempts to control their feelings are unsuccessful.
Similar to other anxiety disorders, their inability to control the unpleasant feelings usually increases the frequency of the same feelings. This perceived inability may further lead to depression, as PTSD affected people may not see any ways to alleviate the initial symptoms of trauma.
Some clients also reported a numbing of their responses to stimuli associated to the event. At times, their stories about the trauma were empty of any emotions, as if somebody else experienced the trauma.
Avoidance of social interactions
Persons affected by PTSD may become socially withdrawn, or they may keep unusually busy with other tasks, which may appear minor or unimportant to others.
At times the PTSD sufferers may even be perceived as having difficulties to respond emotionally to others. Relationship and marital problems may often be experienced by the sufferers and those living / working with them.
3. Highly increased symptoms of anxiety
Commonly, the PTSD affected persons experience:
In addition to the symptoms described above, the persons affected by PTSD may also experience the so called "survival guilt".
Please note that the information on this page should not be used for self-diagnosis or to diagnose others. If you feel that you can relate to one or more of the PTSD symptoms described above, contact me now for a confidential discussion and to get help for your problem.
PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) can be treated with psychotherapy and hypnotherapy.