What is PTSD?
PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of a life-threatening events such as serious accidents, military combat, being in a war zone, being affected by earthquakes or other natural disasters, terrorist incidents. It can also affect those people who have trauma through physical or sexual assault in adult or childhood.
If you have faced a traumatic experience, you may simply feel emotionally numb to begin with. Alternatively feelings of distress may not emerge straight away, but it is possible that you may develop emotional and physical reactions, and changes in behaviour. These symptoms may mean you are suffering from PTSD.
Symptoms may include:
Reliving aspects of the trauma
- vivid flashbacks (feeling that the trauma is happening all over again)
- intrusive thoughts and images
- intense distress at real or symbolic reminders of the trauma.
- keeping busy
- avoiding situations that remind you of the trauma
- repressing memories (being unable to remember aspects of the event)
- feeling detached, cut off and emotionally numb
- being unable to express affection
- feeling there’s no point in planning for the future.
Being easily upset or angry
- disturbed sleep
- irritability and aggressive behaviour
- lack of concentration
- extreme alertness
- panic response to anything to do with the trauma
- being easily startled.
These are all quite common reactions to a traumatic event, and many people find the symptoms will disappear in a relatively short period of time. But if they last for longer than a month, or they are very extreme, you may be given a diagnosis of PTSD.
PTSD can occur after experiencing or witnessing traumatic events such as:
- military combat,
- serious road accidents,
- terrorist attacks,
- natural or man-made disasters,
- being held hostage,
- violent deaths, and
- violent personal assaults, such as sexual assault, mugging or robbery.
PTSD may also occur in any other situation where a person feels extreme fear, horror or helplessness. However, it does not usually develop after situations that are upsetting, such as divorces, job losses or failing exams.
Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks. They may also have problems concentrating and sleeping, and feel isolated and detached. These symptoms are often persistent and severe enough to have a significant impact on a person’s day-to-day life.
Signs and symptoms
- Having recurrent nightmares
- Acting or feeling as though the traumatic event were happening again, sometimes called a “flashback”
- Being physically responsive, such as experiencing a surge in your heart rate or sweating, to reminders of the traumatic event
- Having a difficult time falling or staying asleep
- Feeling more irritable or having outbursts of anger
- Feeling constantly “on guard” or like danger is lurking around every corner
- Making an effort to avoid thoughts and feelings, or conversations about the traumatic event
- A loss of interest in important, once positive, activities
- Experiencing difficulties having positive feelings, such as happiness or love
What happens to us?
When we experience a trauma we are bombarded with a massive amount of information. This can be so overwhelming we are unable to process it. Normally when information is processed properly by the brain the emotion associated with the event subsides. This means that we are able to rationalise the situation. Unfortunately, sometimes the information is not processed. Consequently anything that triggers a reminder of the situation will bring back the emotion just as strongly as if we are re experiencing the event now. An example of this would be a soldier who had been traumatised by gunshots in the battlefield. The sound of a car backfiring could be a trigger that brings back the exact emotion that he experienced at the time.
How can our treatments and techniques help?
Our therapy treatment for PTSD includes EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) which helps to process the unprocessed information the client has experienced. Also included in our treatment plan is HCBT (Hypno Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). This uses Hypnotherapy in a structured way to change automatic negative thoughts to automatic positive thoughts.