Conditioned by events
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, is a mental health condition that can affect any of us, at any time. It is triggered by the experiencing or the witnessing of a traumatic event.
The first thing to understand about trauma is that it is subjective to each of us and to our individual experiencing. Events that can trigger PTSD include but are not limited to incidents such as assault or rape. Perhaps you were witness to a death or perhaps you experienced war or combat-like situations. Perhaps you were the victim of bullying or prolonged physical abuse.
There are instances when a person may experience trauma that is less obvious. Events can be obscure even to them, due to a lack of memory or suppression of the incident over time. Examples of this could be PTSD symptoms evoked from being stuck in a lift or from harbouring an intense fear of water whilst on a boat. Experiences such as this could be suggestive of trauma experienced in early childhood. It is vital therefore, that we do not judge what one person perceives as traumatic. Even if we do not understand, we must listen with sensitivity and compassion. We must respect their emotional responses and fear as valid and justified.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of PTSD include but are not limited to: –
- Re-experiencing the trauma through flashbacks or obtrusive recollections.
- Impact to sleep including nightmares or insomnia.
- Severe anxiety.
- Suicidal thoughts and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness.
- Emotional numbness and avoidance of people or places.
As such, PTSD can be an incredibly fearful, isolating condition that proves detrimental to a person’s existing relationships and daily routine. Symptoms can vary overtime depending on your unique experiencing. Symptoms can also present as intense and extreme, especially during moments of stress or on occasions whereby you are unexpectedly reminded by your experience. Reminders such as photographs, music, or even news reports can trigger your experience and memories of the trauma that you endured. Even years down the line, you can come to feel back to square one by coming across sights, sounds or smells that act to trigger the event. For example, hearing a specific sound such as a song, an ambulance siren or a car backfiring. Memories can also be triggered upon eating a meal that you had on the day of the incident or perhaps revisiting the place where the incident occurred.
Be mindful that if this is happening to you that it is a normal, physiological and emotional response to trauma. There is nothing to be ashamed of and you can overcome this. Have patience and do not hesitate to reach out for support from loved ones and from medical professionals.
When should you seek help?
Psychological trauma is complex and often misunderstood. If you have been affected by this condition and have not yet done so, seek help from a medical professional. If you have recently suffered a traumatic event and find that you are experiencing disturbing thoughts for two weeks or more, do not suffer alone.
Silence kills and so often people are reluctant to come forward with their struggles through fear, shame or embarrassment. If you or somebody that you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts or are in danger of attempting suicide, it is essential that you seek help immediately from your doctor or from your local emergency number.
The nature of this condition means that it can often feel impossible to beat, not to mention debilitating and all-encompassing to our everyday life. Whilst it can take time for you or a loved one to feel restored and able to look forward to a trauma-free, happy future, with the right support and self-care, know that PTSD can absolutely be treated.
Wishing you happiness and good mental health,
My Bi-Weekly Advice Column
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