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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - What is it and what are the symptoms?

About half the world’s population will suffer a trauma at some point in their lives, whether it is a car accident, rape, physical abuse or tragic accident.  In most cases bad reactions or symptoms can clear up in weeks or a couple of months or so,  but when the responses to the event continues to recur then at least 5-10% of victims are likely to suffer from PTSD.

It is not easy to take any of these events in one’s stride, as they can often leave emotional and psychological scars.  Victims who have suffered such an event may try to avoid talking about it, have recurrent nightmares, withdraw from family or friends, start drinking more or turn to drugs.  They may do all they can not to be reminded of the event and will avoid going anywhere near where the event occurred.

All of these reactions can be normal, except when they persist for some considerable length of time, then it becomes a problem.  For instance, one or two clients I have helped overcome PTSD were involved in a car accident that was not their fault.  They not only had recurrent nightmares but found it very difficult to want to get behind the wheel of their car and drive anywhere, particularly long distances.

When human beings find themselves in very stressful situations they become fearful and anxious which triggers a fear or flight response, which is ‘normal’. Once the stress and anxiety have been dealt with the body goes back into ‘normal’ mode.  However, in the case of PTSD the fear and anxiety remain, even though the stressful event has passed.  Therefore there are three main features of PTSD:-

Reliving the traumatic event; This can take the form of nightmares, or sometimes flashbacks, when the person feels like they are right back in the middle of the horror. There may also be recurrent negative thoughts about the event going on in the person’s mind, which stops them from continuing a normal life and the slightest thing may trigger a memory attached to the event.

Avoiding any reminder of the event; PTSD enhances the reminder of the event, making it extremely upsetting for the victim.  Hence he or she will go to any lengths to avoid going anywhere near where the event took place.  They try desperately to keep any thoughts or reminders of the event out of their mind and will avoid people or places that remind them of the event.

Feeling constantly on edge;  The victim finds it difficult to concentrate on anything or anyone, gets irritable and angry over the slightest thing, and feels constantly edgy and cannot keep still.  People with PTSD are constantly on the alert for any reminder of the event, and so this can lead to sleepless nights and recurrent nightmares.

Whilst millions of people suffer a trauma only a small percentage of that population will develop PTSD.  Contact me for further details if you have suffered a severe trauma and think you may have PTSD.

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