When people experience or witness a traumatic event or repeated events such as physical violence, emotional or verbal abuse, death or serious injury or sexual assault they can sometimes develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress or meet the criteria for a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Symptoms of post-traumatic stress may also arise when there is a threat that these events will happen, even if they do not actually end up happening.
You don’t have to have directly witnessed the event to have a PTSD response; it can also be through learning that a close family member or friend was exposed to trauma. Repeated or extreme indirect exposure to trauma can also lead to PTSD symptoms, for example, paramedics and other medical staff repeatedly witnessing horrific injury or death.
Symptoms of PTSD include:
- involuntary, repeated and intrusive memories
- distressing nightmares
- flashbacks to the trauma
- feeling intense distress and extreme physical anxiety when exposed to anything that reminds the person of the trauma (such as sounds, smells or particular people)
- Attempting to avoid any thoughts or feelings about the trauma
- Avoiding any external reminders of the trauma (for example, places, people, activities or conversations about what happened)
Changes in thinking:
- A shift in thinking about yourself, other people, the world around your or the future. Thoughts can become negative and distorted (for example “I cannot trust anybody at all” or “I am a bad person”)
- An inability to recall key details of the trauma
- Continually blaming yourself or others for causing the traumatic event or not preventing it in some way
- Having a sense of a foreshortened future
- Low self-esteem
Changes in mood, emotions and the way you relate to others:
- Feeling overwhelmed by strong emotions related to the trauma such as guilt, anger, shame, depression or horror
- Feeling disconnected from emotions, experiencing “blunted” emotions or a lack of positive emotions
- Irritability or aggressive behaviour
- Not enjoying activities that you used to enjoy previously
- Withdrawing from other people or feeling detached or alienated when you are with them
- Easily startled
- Hyper-vigilance and hyper-arousal
- Sleep disturbance (trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or not feeling rested when you wake up)
- Problems concentrating
When should I seek help for PTSD symptoms?
Left untreated, PTSD can be a debilitating condition that significantly affects a person’s quality of life and overall mental health. There are a number of effective psychological treatments for PTSD, all of which aim to reduce symptoms so that the trauma longer dominates their thoughts, emotions and life.
If you would like to make an appointment to speak to one of our psychologists about effective treatment for PTSD symptoms please call (03) 9376 1958 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org