Post-traumatic stress disorder

What is Post traumatic stress disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder also known as PTSD can occur in those that have been involved in a traumatic event such as a road traffic accident, rape, victims of war/torture, assault and other types of unforeseen circumstances that involved potential loss of life or serious injury.  The symptoms of PTSD usually become apparent within four weeks of the traumatic event and can persist for a significant period of time if left untreated.  PTSD can progress to depression, anxiety and addiction disorders if sufferers do not seek help initially.

How common is Post traumatic stress disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder usually occurs after a life threatening event.  There have been numerous cases associated with veterans of war, victims of physical and sexual abuse, those involved in road traffic accidents, terrorist attacks, aviation incidents and maritime disasters.  The risk of developing PTSD is increased if the traumatic event is very severe, not seeking help early, having a pre-existing mental health condition and possessing anxious personality traits.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

Most people who suffer with PTSD symptoms tend to experience nightmares, flashbacks and anxiety symptoms.  The nightmares and flashbacks are usually related to the accident or incident and anxiety manifests as avoidance of places or people that are associated with the accident, feeling of tension and nervousness for no apparent reason, hypervigilance, hyperarousal and panic attacks.  Some sufferers describe feeling emotionally numb, find it difficult to enjoy life and depression with a sense of hopelessness and helplessness.  It is quite common for those with PTSD to use substances such as alcohol to cope with their difficulties.

What are the causes of PTSD?

PTSD usually occurs in those that have been subjected to an event that is associated with potential death, death of others and destruction.  Such events include war, road traffic accidents, victims of physical and sexual violence and any event or incident that could have led to loss of life or significant injury.  PTSD can occur in anyone subjected to these events, however, the risk of developing the condition is increased in those with a pre-existing mental health condition, being subjected to severe accidents/incidents and for prolonged periods and not seeking help after a traumatic event has occurred.

What is the treatment for PTSD?

The treatment depends on the nature and severity of symptoms.  Psychotherapeutic techniques have been shown to be effective for mild to moderate post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.  Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and EMDR are approaches which have been shown to be effective in post-traumatic stress disorder.  For more severe symptoms, anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications are helpful in reducing the symptoms associated with PTSD.

How can I prevent myself from getting PTSD?

After a traumatic event, your risks of developing PTSD will be reduced if professional help is sought sooner rather than later.  It would be helpful to seek psychological and emotional support to process the traumatic event even if symptoms have not yet developed.  This is more relevant if the event was life threatening or/and involved the loss of life of others or was severe enough to require admission to a hospital.

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