Something that is a lot more common then people think is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events. With the current pandemic going out right now, many have had to face traumatic situations, the health sector has had to watch patients health deteriorate and some even pass away and they’ve had to face the most stressful situations that they won’t forget. For some veterans, PTSD can have a huge negative impact on them, reminding them of the times they were in the war and all the tragedies that took place.
It’s that feeling of constantly being reminded of that awful time that looms and it never really goes away. The events can often come through in nightmares and flashbacks, and they may experience some kind of irritability, guilt or isolation. It can also give the person suffering difficulty sleeping such as insomnia and even concentrating can be a difficult task.
Symptoms of PTSD:
Vivid flashbacks (feeling like the trauma is happening at that exact moment), intrusive thoughts or images, nightmares, physical pain, sweating, nausea or trembling. It can also lead to intense distress when thinking about reminders of the trauma. Panicking when reminded of the trauma, getting easily upset or angry, disturbed sleep, aggressive behaviour, hypervigilance and being easily startled.
When you try to avoid the feelings or memories of the event, you may often find yourself trying to keep as busy as possible, avoid anything that reminds you of the trauma. Being unable to remember specific details, feeling numb, using alcohol or drugs to avoid the memories of it.
You may experience the feeling of not being able to trust anyone, feeling like nowhere you go is safe, blaming yourself for what happened and having constant feelings of anger, sadness, guilt or shame.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of PTSD, it may also be difficult with some aspects of daily life. You may find it hard to look after yourself, holding down a job, coping with change and maintaining friendships.
Causes for PTSD
The situations that we find traumatic are not the same for everyone, there are so many experiences that can cause PTSD. Some may involve, being in a car crash, being attacked, being abused or bullied, doing a job where you’re constantly faced with distressing images, traumatic childbirth, war, losing someone you love close to you and any events in which you fear for your life.
Types of PTSD
If you’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, there are 2 common types, that can raise from mild, moderate to more severe. This will explain to you the sort of impact your symptoms are having on you currently.
Delayed-onset PTSD- If your symptoms appear more than six months after experiencing trauma, this might be described as ‘delayed PTSD’ or ‘delayed-onset PTSD’.
Complex PTSD- If you’ve experienced trauma at an early age or it lasted a long time, you might be given a diagnosis of ‘complex PTSD’. This is where you experience symptoms of PTSD but also other additional symptoms may persist. Difficulty controlling emotions, feeling distrustful towards the world, constant feelings of hopelessness like nobody understands you and many more.
What is important to realise is that it’s normal to experience upset and a sense of confusion after a traumatic event takes place. But most people will see signs of improvement within weeks. If you or someone you know are still having problems around 4 weeks after the experience happened. You can contact your GP who can refer you to a mental health specialist who will then give you a further assessment and advice on treatment.
Treatment for PTSD
Like many mental health illnesses, PTSD can be successfully treated even when it starts years after the event had happened.
Treatments can include:
- watchful waiting- this means to keep an eye on your symptoms to see if they improve or get worse without treatment
- antidepressants- such as paroxetine or mirtazapine
- psychological therapies- such as cognitive behavioural therapy which will be mainly trauma-focused. Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing- a new treatment that can reduce symptoms of PTSD symptoms such as being easily scared. Read more here.
PTSD is something that can be extremely distressing if you’re finding the symptoms hard to bare with then you must reach out for help. Flashbacks are a common sign of PTSD, they can be horrible to have to go through and can creep up every now and then. There are a few ways in which you can help yourself when going through the flashbacks. Focusing on your breathing, when you’re at a state of panic you may stop breathing normally. So when you feel yourself going into that state, breathe slowly in and out counting to five.
Keep saying to yourself that you’re safe, comfort yourself cuddle up in a blanket, sit with your pet, listen to some soothing music or watch a film. Maybe keeping a diary will help, take note of the stages of what occurs when you go through the flashbacks, it could help you spot what triggers you. Get to grips with what triggers you, smells, sounds, words or a particular place. Talk to a friend or family member, a professional such as a therapist or GP. Take your time, don’t feel obliged to talk about your experience straightway, if you need to take the time before you speak about it that’s ok.
Think about your diet, eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar stable can help you cope with difficult feelings, exercising, spend time in nature, avoid drugs and alcohol at all costs. They have so many complications and only get worse in the long run and make symptoms even worse as well as sleeping.
If you know someone who is suffering from PTSD or you think that they may have it, then it’s best to be there for them and let them tell you. Let them talk at their own pace, do not pressure them, allow them time to be upset after what happened, do not make assumptions with how they feel. Don’t judge, even though you might find it hard to understand. Learn their triggers, talk about situations or conversations that might trigger the flashbacks or feelings. When they’re experiencing a flashback, try to stay calm, tell them they’re having one, avoid making any movements and encourage them to take deep breathes. Don’t overcrowd them, don’t touch or hug them without permission and try not to startle them.
Look out for any warning signs, change in mood angry, upset or a change in performance at work, lateness or perhaps energy levels changing, lack of concentration. Help them find the support they need!
If you’re interested in online counselling do not hesitate to get in touch with Becky 0751049571 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook, Instagram @counsellorwhocares the same for Twitter or you can fill out the form on the website.
YoungMinds Crisis Messenger: Text YM to 85258
Call Samaritans on 116 123 or email email@example.com
Call Assist Trauma Care on 01788 560 800