PTSD is a set of reactions that can develop in people who have been exposed to, or threatened with death or serious physical harm to themselves or have witnessed these events to others around them.
These events could include, but are not limited to, war and/or military combat, a car or other serious accident, physical or sexual assault, or natural disasters such as bushfires or floods.
For PTSD to occur, the trauma must also lead to feelings of intense fear, helplessness or horror. Other life changing situations such as job loss, marital breakdown or the expected death of an ill family member, are very distressing and may cause serious mental health problems, but are not events that cause PTSD.
How can PTSD affect you?
A person with PTSD can experience a range of problems:
Re-living the traumatic event through unwanted memories, vivid nightmares, flashbacks, or intense reactions such as heart palpitations or panic when reminded of the event.
Feeling wound up , for example, having trouble sleeping or concentrating, feeling angry or irritable, taking risks, being easily startled or constantly on the lookout for danger.
Avoiding reminders of the event such as activities, places, people, thoughts or feelings that bring back memories of the trauma.
Negative thoughts and feelings such as fear, anger, guilt, or feeling flat or numb a lot of the time; or loss of interest in day-to-day activities and feeling cut off from friends and family.
It is not unusual for people with PTSD to experience other mental health problems like depression or anxiety. Some people may develop a habit of using alcohol or drugs as a way of coping.
These PTSD symptoms can affect a person’s ability to work, perform everyday activities or relate to their family and friends.
As a PTSD sufferer – what can you do?
Gather knowledge about your condition
If you feel you are struggling to cope after a traumatic event talk to your GP or a mental health professional, for example, a psychologist, social worker, or psychiatrist – ensuring your mental health professional has expertise in the area of PTSD.
Speak to others who have been in a similar position – they understand.
Let your family and friends in, as they will be your support base.
I have included links to sites I found useful and the information contained within can be provided to your GP.
www.ptsd.va.gov - US Department for Veteran Affairs National Centre for PTSD has some very good information covering all aspects of PTSD.
www.som.uq.edu.au/ptsd - University of Queensland School of Medicine has developed the PTSD evidence based information resource to provide information to the general public and health care professionals about PTSD and its management.
Accept you have a problem
With acceptance comes the ability to receive the right treatment. You will no longer struggle to understand why you are behaving in a particular way. There will still be good and bad days but you will have tools (given to you by your mental health professional) to help you manage your condition.
Effective treatments for PTSD are available and you CAN get better!
What helped me through very difficult times were the following:
If you are keen to try the exercise, 5 mins twice daily, here is a youtube video of the first balance exercise. Remember you must be able to balance on one leg for 5 minutes before you try another exercise
Psychotherapy with a clinical psychologist then psychiatrist – both credible and experienced with PTSD patients
Breathing exercises – to slow down my fast and shallow breathing brought on by triggers and anxiety.
Physical exercise – there is so much research available to that shows exercise can help alleviate symptoms of PTSD, anxiety and depression
Time out – Even if it is just 20 minutes by yourself in a quiet place to just sit and be still.
These days PTSD no longer controls me; I can manage my condition.
As a family member, friend, workmate, supervisor – what can you do to help?
PTSD can affect the whole family. People with PTSD can often seem disinterested or distant, and you may feel shut out. This is usually because the person is trying not to think or feel in order to block out painful memories. They may stop participating in family life, ignore your offers of help, or become irritable. It is important to remember that these behaviours are part of the person’s PTSD; they are not about you. Your loved one probably needs your support but doesn’t know what they need or how to ask for help.
Ways to help:
You do not need to have experienced PTSD to understand what it is. Do your own research into the symptoms your loved one is displaying, either by investigating the links above or speaking with a mental health professional. Encourage your loved one to seek help – sometimes they may not realise they need help or may find it hard to admit they do.
Be there for them. Let them know you support them, listen without being judgemental, show them you care and can be called on at any time.