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What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?



What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

The dictionary definition of trauma is: “A deeply distressing or disturbing experience”.

Trauma is the Greek work for “wound” and that is certainly a fitting description because if you suffer from a trauma your body and mind feel like they have been wounded.

Others describe a traumatic incident as overwhelming for a person’s psychological defenses.

There are many types of trauma, and they range from:

  • Being physically or sexually abused

  • Rape

  • A car accident

  • Being mugged or beaten up

  • A botched medical procedure

  • Witnessing an accident

  • Having a miscarriage

  • Losing a family member

  • Your house being burgled

  • Serving in the army

  • Coming from a war-torn country

  • Living through a disaster such as a flood or a bombing

  • A near death experience.

  • Being held hostage

  • Loss of a job

  • Chronically bullied at work

When someone is traumatized, they can suffer from many things like severe anxiety, panic attacks, dissociation, flashbacks & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It can affect every part of their lives and have a devastating impact on it.

Anxiety is a normal part of life & living and it only becomes an issue when it impacts on your daily living. For example, if you were in a car crash and the car was totally smashed up, but you walked away unscathed, it makes sense that you will be anxious the next time you get into a car. Eventually, after repeatedly getting into the car, and not crashing, this anxiety will lessen. However, sometimes this anxiety increases and becomes a real problem, so much so, that you avoid getting into a car altogether. You are then plagued by thoughts of how you could have died and how you nearly did. This can play and replay in your mind and cause huge anxiety, resulting in someone becoming withdrawn & depressed.

This can have a negative impact on a person’s life as they will avoid people or places that remind them of the trauma. Also, the physical stress a person is under can be enormous so it’s very important that they get help sooner rather than later.

Panic Attacks can be very frightening, and when someone has an attack, they often think they are having a heart attack. People feel there is a tightness in their chest, find it hard to breath & hyperventilate, palpitations, feel lightheaded, have sweaty palms and feel totally overwhelmed. They are quite physically intense and leave a person exhausted. Some people find it helps to keep a paper bag with them to breath into, as it can help regulate hyperventilation.

A flashback is when someone is triggered back to when the trauma happened, and they experience the same emotions & feelings as if the trauma was happening in the here and now. A trigger is something that reminds the person of the trauma. This trigger could be anything like hearing a song that was on the radio at the time of the trauma, the noise of a car skidding on the road, a particular smell or seeing photos or reading an article of an incident that was very similar to trauma they experienced.

Dissociation is when someone experiences changes in their sense of time, their memory and their sense of self. They may feel like they are outside their own body looking down on it, spaced out, a feeling that the world around them is not real, detached from themselves, numb and have very little memory of the trauma itself.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychological condition that occurs in people who have been traumatized. These people can relive the trauma by having flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks and severe anxiety when triggered. It is quite common for soldiers to suffer from it. Any trauma can cause someone to suffer from PTSD and it doesn’t necessarily happen straight after the trauma. Sometimes PTSD can happen months, even years, after the trauma has taken place.

The physical stress a person is under can be enormous so it’s very important that they get help sooner rather than later.

What are the Psychological Effects of PTSD?

·         Feeling detached from people & places

·         Difficulty concentrating

·         Sleep disturbances

·         Preoccupation with the trauma

·         Easily agitated

·         Irritable

·         Nightmares

·         Hypervigilance

·         Feelings of guilt & shame

·         Low self-esteem & confidence

·         Feeling depressed

·         Withdrawal from social settings

·         Refusal to talk about the trauma

What are the Physical Effects of PTSD?

·         Shaking / Panic / hyperventilating / fainting

·         Loss of appetite

·         Exhaustion, due to stress / lack of sleep

·         Use of alcohol & or drugs

·         Unable to relax or unwind

·         Panic Attacks

A qualified therapist can help someone to come to terms with the trauma and try to make sense of it. There are many techniques that can be taught to people and body work that are helpful in allowing people deal with their trauma. Also, mindfulness, meditation & breathing techniques that help someone to relax can be very helpful. Building up a person’s resources, both external & internal, are ways of helping someone to use strategies that will help them to manage their trauma better. Allowing someone to be able to sit with their trauma and not allow it to take over is essential in helping people to overcome the trauma.

If you’d like to avail of counselling for PTSD you can contact us here, and a member of our team will be happy to help.

Find out more about trauma-related difficulties here.

Written by Caroline Tully

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