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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is an anxiety disorder that can occur after any traumatic event. A traumatic event can be defined as an event where we can see that we are in danger, or where we witness other people dying or being injured, however, even hearing about an unexpected death or injury of a close friend or family member can lead to post traumatic stress disorder. You may experience post traumatic stress disorder after a car accident, bush fire, cyclone, storm surge or other traumatic event.

Not everyone will develop post traumatic stress disorder after a traumatic event, but many will experience symptoms in the short term. However about 1 in 3 people will experience continued symptoms and it is these who tend to be diagnosed as suffering with post traumatic stress disorder.

What are the Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

The symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder will usually develop immediately after the traumatic event, however in some cases (less than 15%) the onset of symptoms may be delayed by weeks, months and sometimes even years. In post traumatic stress disorder there may be times where symptoms seem to slip into remission, which brings with it a false sense of security only to bring disappointment when symptoms return to the same initial level. The symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder can be separated into three main core symptoms and then other additional symptoms:

  1. Re-experiencing. This can be in the sense of either flashbacks or nightmares, and can be so realistic that you actually feel as if you are reliving the traumatic experience. You not only experience the event again in your mind, but may also feel the emotional and physical sensations associated with the event again, such as smell, fear and even pain.
  2. Avoidance. This occurs when it is too upsetting to relive the experience over and over, therefore you distract yourself by avoiding anything, anyone or anywhere that reminds you of the trauma.
  3. Hyper vigilance. This is known as constantly ‘being on guard’; you find that you cannot relax at all and are constantly alert and on the lookout for danger. You may find it particularly difficult to sleep, and other people may notice your jumpiness and irritable state.

Other symptoms:

  • Physical and emotional distress when there are reminders of the traumatic event
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Anger and irritability
  • Concentration problems
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Limited range of emotions (e.g. cannot have loving feelings)
  • Lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Sense of the future being shortened – for example, a person predicts they will not get married, have children, or have a normal life expectancy
  • Physical symptoms such as sweating, headaches, dizziness, shaking, chest pain and stomach upset.

What Treatment is Available for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

There are a variety of different types of treatment for those suffering with post traumatic stress disorder, which may be used individually or in conjunction with one another. There are five main types of treatment:

Watchful Waiting involves carefully monitoring you symptoms for improvement or worsening. This is usually recommended if your symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder are mild and have been present for less than four weeks after the traumatic event.

Psychotherapy is a type of talking therapy that enables you to talk through the event and find coping strategies to deal with it.

Cognitive behaviour therapy is a type of psychotherapy that teaches you the skills to change your thoughts, emotions and negative thought processes you may develop after a traumatic event. Trauma-focused CBT uses mental images of the traumatic event to help you gain control of your distress. You are likely to have between 8 and 12 sessions of CBT to deal with the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. You may be offered CBT if you have severe symptoms of CBT, which develop within one month of a traumatic event, or you still have post traumatic stress disorder symptoms within three months of a traumatic event.

Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EDMR) involves making several sets of side-to-side eye movements while recalling the traumatic incident you encountered. The aim of this is to help your brain to focus on the flashbacks you experience as part of post traumatic stress disorder, so you can come to term with the event and therefore think in a more positive manner.

Medication (via a psychiatrist or GP): Many people with post traumatic stress disorder are also extremely depressed, therefore taking antidepressants may help to relieve some of the symptoms and help people to get the most from the other psychological treatments they encounter.

If you are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and would like to make an appointment, call the team at Sex Life Therapy on (03) 9005 5213.

Further Information on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder @ Better Health Channel

What is PTSD? @ University of Queensland

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder @ Sane Australia

 

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