Trauma and PTSD
What is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder and is a mental health condition that may occur after a traumatic event, or after multiple traumatic events. Some people develop PTSD after experiencing a traumatic event. People affected may feel anxious and highly vigilant, and have intrusive thoughts and memories of the trauma. With treatment, people with PTSD can make a full recovery. Trauma can take many forms. Commonly, we think of events such as sexual assault, car accidents or natural disasters. However, other life experiences such as neglect in childhood, school or workplace bullying, medical crises, the death of a loved one, a job loss or relationship breakdown can also be traumatic. Each person responds uniquely to the things that happen to them. Regardless of an event itself, if our ability to cope is overwhelmed by a perceived threat, we will likely experience it as traumatic. Post-Traumatic stress manifests in different ways. Some people experience an acute stress response that naturally resolves over time with the support of family and friends. For others, the impacts of trauma can persist for months or years and develop into PTSD. Approximately 25% of people who experience a traumatic event go on to develop PTSD. About 12% of Australians will experience PTSD in their lifetime.
Trauma Symptoms include:
- Recurring or distressing memories
- Avoiding or attempting to avoid thoughts
- Low self-esteem
- Diminished interest in normal activities
- Pessimistic about the future
- Problems with anger
- Easily startled
- Distress triggered by reminders that link back to the traumatic event
- Intense feelings: anxiety, agitation, restlessness (high activation of the nervous system)
- Intrusive images or flashbacks
- Depression (low activation of the nervous system)
- Emotionally distant or reactive
- Difficulties sleeping and concentrating
- Avoiding activities, places, people which trigger recollections of the trauma
The symptoms of PTSD may interfere with a person’s ability to carry on their everyday live, work and relationships. Feeling strong reactions such as fear, anger, rage, sadness, or loneliness, are natural after a traumatic event. For people who develop PTSD, these feelings are intensely distressing and if left untreated, can last for a long time.
PTSD is identified by four main groups of symptoms:
Flashbacks of the traumatic event through intrusive memories or nightmares
As well as strong emotions, there may be physical symptoms such as sweating, heart palpitations or panic attacks
Feeling emotionally numb
Some people experience ‘disassociation’ – a feeling of watching from a distance as events unfold
Feeling anxious and ‘jumpy’ for no reason
Heightened vigilance can mean the affected person is constantly on the lookout for danger, possibly leading to irritability and lack of concentration
Avoiding reminders of the event
The person deliberately avoids activities, places, people, thoughts or feelings associated with the event because they bring back painful memories
If a person has been through a traumatic event and has experienced a combination of the above symptoms for a month or more, then they may be experiencing PTSD.
Some Causes of Trauma
Trauma can be thought of any event that threatens the integrity of a person’s survival.
- Car or sporting accidents
- Being caught in a natural disaster
- Being involved in or witnessing a crime
- Childhood trauma: incest, neglect, separation, loss, attachment failure
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Being in war
- Witnessing an unexpected or violent death
Or emotionally distressing events that threaten a person’s sense of self.
- Being publicly shamed
- Losing a parent or sibling
- Any form of emotional abuse
- Toxic relationships, environments and/or domestic violence
- Anything which feels like a threat to sense of self and safety
- Psychological and/or mental manipulation
Trauma treatment means that you can put your traumatic past behind you and get on with life. Once a traumatic memory has been resolved you are able to recall the event as a past memory, without having to relive the unpleasant sensations, painful memories, thoughts and limiting beliefs that are associated with it. There are a range of helpful therapeutic, evidence based approaches which can help heal and resolve trauma. For further information, you may want to explore ‘Therapy Approaches’ and EMDR on this website. EMDR is evidence based therapy treatment, specifically used to directly heal and resolve the effects of trauma and PTSD, and is recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO). You are welcome to look at the range of treatments on this website and you can get in touch directly for an obligation free chat.
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You are very welcome to get in touch, for any enquiries or questions you may have, or to schedule an appointment.