PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder FAQ
There are times and situations where an event, or series of events, is experienced that is so traumatic and unexpected that there is a long lasting and serious effect. Nightmares, flashbacks and other manifestations continue long after the physical danger or trauma has passed.
Emotional numbness can happen as a result of reliving these events and continuing to experience the associated feelings of intense fear and terror.
Where these feelings continue in the months following the event or surface months or years later the condition may be diagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
What might cause PTSD?
There are many potential trigger events that might cause someone to suffer from PTSD. Although this is not a comprehensive list the cause might be
- Violent personal assault such as rape or mugging.
- Accidents such as plane or vehicle crashes.
- Natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes.
- Military combat and associated activities.
- Childhood sexual abuse.
- Industrial accidents.
It is important to realize that the harm does not necessarily impact you directly. You may experience PTSD where a family member or close friend suffers a traumatic event. Witnessing these types of events or dealing with the aftermath (aid workers, first responders and medical staff) are all potentially at risk of experiencing PTSD.
If a friend or relative has experienced one of these traumatic events how long will it be before we know if they have PTSD?
Symptoms often show themselves within a few months, in some cases within a few hours. However, it is important to realise that they may not show signs of PTSD until many years later. Perhaps a second trigger event may cause the symptoms to surface.
What are the signs that a friend or relative might have PTSD?
The first thing to realize is that each person is different and may exhibit different signs of PTSD. It is important to realize that some people are more prone to experiencing PTSD. The quiet introvert may be no more likely to suffer from PTSD than the outwardly confident, dynamic and exuberant person.
It is also very important to remember that anyone that may be suffering from PTSD should consult an appropriate health professional to have the diagnosis confirmed or refuted.
The following is a list of possible symptoms
- Powerful recurring memories of past events.
- Occasional flashbacks
- They may re-live the event
- If they become agitated on the anniversary of the event.
- Situations that remind them of the original event may cause discomfort.
- Emotional numbness.
- Avoidance of potential triggers.
- Lack of intimacy with partners, family and friends.
- Loss of interest in sports and activities they previously enjoyed.
- Feelings of guilt.
- Changes in sleep patterns.
- Unusual levels of increased awareness.
- Difficulty in concentrating and finishing tasks.
A few people will experience a dissociative state where they genuinely believe that they are experiencing the event all over again. This state can last from a few minutes to several days. This can be a frightening experience for family and friend. It is serious and needs appropriate professional intervention.
What other effects can PTSD have?
It is common for PTSD sufferers to also have problems with
- Drug and alcohol dependence.
- Other anxiety disorders besides PTSD.
- Dizziness and chest pains.
- Other medical conditions such as gastrointestinal and immune response problems.
One danger is that PTSD as a cause may be missed. In these situations the symptoms are treated not the underlying cause.
What is the best way to treat PTSD?
There is no one simple solution that works in all situations. Each person will need to be assessed and a plan devised for their specific needs.
Depression and anxiety may be treated with medication. This may help restore sleep patterns and aid in establishing a more normal routine.
Qualified therapists are able to offer cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or group therapy and this is considered a positive treatment for PTSD. Rape counselors are an example of therapists that specialize in a specific type of trauma.
Exposure therapy is another option considered to be beneficial in some cases. Under controlled conditions the individual is encouraged to relive the traumatic event and work towards resolving their feelings.
How do I go about choosing a therapist?
You need to consider two areas – personal and professional.
- Your therapist should be properly accredited. They should be ready and willing to confirm their professional designation and details of their college or professional body. Their membership in good standing can then easily be confirmed.
- The therapist should be able to demonstrate professional competence through a combination of training, continuing professional development and experience.
- You need to feel comfortable and confident in them as a therapist. Compassion, humanity, confidence, awareness, inner strength, are all characteristics of a good therapist.
- For people in the military and first responders your organisations may have a list of approved professionals and colleagues may be able to offer recommendations.
Main office: 208 Old Orchard Road, RR#1, Bath, Ontario. Tel: 613 352 5487. Therapy is also available at 203-120 Clarence Street, Kingston, Ontario, K7L 1X4.