Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is typically formulated following a traumatic event. Often PTSD is talked about in a military context from those who have served in war zones or have been faced with shocking scenes. However, PTSD is not restricted to those serving in the military as individuals who have experienced abuse, assault, sexual assault, violence, injury or from those who have been involved in a hostage situation or even a terrorist attack.
PTSD is typically characterised by flashbacks to the scarring event and may affect the individual’s daily life as it may bring issues such as difficulty sleeping and concentrating. In addition to flashbacks and nightmares, other symptoms include sweating, pain, feeling nauseous. Whilst experiencing these, often feelings of guilt come about where the individual questions the situation with thoughts of ‘why me?’ and ‘why didn’t I do this?’ which prevents them from tackling the issue and moving forward.
In a bid to tackle the PTSD thoughts, individuals can often busy themselves with hobbies or work. They may think that if they do not give the PTSD a chance to bring itself to the forefront then there won’t be an issue, although this is not the case. For many who try to distract themselves they can become isolated with a loss of the enthusiasm for activities they used to enjoy.
Others find themselves on a state of high alert whereby they find it difficult to relax and become very anxious. This state of high alert makes the individual highly aware of any threats that they may be exposed to and as such will be easily startled. This can lead to angry outbursts, irritability, a loss of concentration and sleep problems.
In children, PTSD may also show itself through bed wetting, re-enacting the event during play time, and appearing out of character when leaving one parent or another adult – often appearing highly anxious.
There is no prescribed time for PTSD to develop as for some it may happen immediately whilst it may begin many years later.
As with any intervention, your treatment for PTSD will be discussed with you to agree on the best approach for you. Often the length of time and the strength of your PTSD can dictate the appropriateness for the intervention. If it is mild, or experienced for a short time, then your symptoms will most likely be monitored to get a good idea of how severely affected you are. Often, similar issues to PTSD are experienced in the weeks following a traumatic event but the large majority get better after a few weeks without any intervention. Do not be put off by this approach as there will be a follow up appointment a few weeks after this approach has been started to access your situation.
Psychotherapy may be used if PTSD has been developed which will help to identify the emotional aspects of mental health issues. Psychotherapy may be offered through CBT, which looks at the thoughts and behaviours; group therapy; and a new approach which focusses on eye movement to desensitise individuals to the traumatic event, EMDR.
If PTSD is persistent or severe then a combination of psychotherapy and medical interventions can be used. It is worth noting that for children, CBT is usually the way to go.
Please note: that PTSD may affect your driving so you may have to alert the DVLA, if you are in the UK – or if applicable, the relevant driving agencies in your country