Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can be triggered by a distressing event, such as war, a traumatic birth, an abusive relationship, a natural disaster, witnessing a violent death, or a terrorist attack. Those who have had indirect exposure to a traumatic event or repeated exposure to graphic details of trauma may also develop PTSD.
While the exact cause of PTSD is still unclear, research suggests that it may be due to a biological predisposition, which is a type of survival mechanism caused by high adrenaline levels and physical and hormonal changes in the brain. Factors that can increase the risk of developing PTSD include having a parent with mental health issues, a history of depression or anxiety, or not receiving support after a traumatic event.
If you’re suffering from PTSD, you may experience a range of symptoms, both psychological and physiological. Physiological symptoms include sweating, pain, nausea, and trembling. Psychological symptoms can include vivid flashbacks, intrusive thoughts or images, irritability, nightmares, difficulty feeling emotions, hypervigilance, hyperacusis (reduced tolerance to noise), persistent fear, anger, guilt, or shame, and difficulty with concentration. Behaviourally, you may find yourself avoiding places that remind you of the event, having diminished interest in activities and social gatherings, engaging in reckless or destructive behaviors, and having difficulty falling or staying asleep.
The disorder can be mild, moderate, or severe, and these categories are determined by how much your symptoms are affecting your day-to-day life. Additionally, PTSD can be classified as delayed-onset if symptoms occur more than 6 months after the distressing event, or complex-PTSD if trauma is experienced at an early age or lasts for a long time. There is also birth trauma, which occurs after a traumatic childbirth experience.
If you are struggling with flashbacks and intrusive thoughts that relate to a past trauma and these symptoms are interfering with your ability to manage daily life or you are noticing patterns in your relationships which can be traced back to past trauma, it is important to seek help.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Schema Therapy are all effective treatments for PTSD. CBT focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and gradually exposing you to situations that trigger anxiety. EMDR utilises eye movements to assist in processing the feelings and memories of the trauma. Schema Therapy is a longer-term approach and can be beneficial for those who experienced recurrent trauma in childhood.