What Is PTSD?
PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It has also been known as “shell shock” and was more commonly a diagnosis amongst soldiers after they had returned from War. PTSD is a mental health problem that may develop after experiencing traumatic events or serious injury. These can be lots of different things for different people, as we all experience and deal with trauma in different ways.
When we experience stress or traumatic events, we all of course will feel hurt, and upset and find it difficult to process what has happened. We may also feel disconnected from people and struggle to talk about what has happened. If these feelings continue after a few weeks/months and begin to interfere with your daily life, then you may be experiencing PTSD and will need to get professional help to help you overcome this.
What Are The Main Symptoms?
As mentioned before, we all will respond to traumatic incidents in different ways, but there are some common symptoms that will arise and they fall into these different categories:
- Re-experiencing symptoms. These are things such as flashbacks about what has happened, recurring nightmares, distressing thoughts or mental images and physical symptoms such as sweating and shaking or feeling pain.
- Avoidance symptoms. This includes staying away from places or events that are reminders of the experience of trying to keep busy all the time. It would include the use of drugs or alcohol to avoid having to deal with what has happened. The person may not be able to remember what happened in the event, or feel numb while talking about it.
- Alertness/Reactivity symptoms. This is when the person becomes very jumpy or is easily startled. They struggle to stay on task and appear to be on very high alert at all times. They suffer from panic attacks and may demonstrate self-destructive or reckless behaviour.
- Feeling/Mood symptoms. This will be the feelings of distrust and overwhelming negative emotions such as sadness, hurt, anger or guilt. The person may feel like nowhere is safe and will struggle to feel happy.
What Causes PTSD?
It’s estimated that 50% of people will experience a trauma at some point in their life and although the majority of people exposed to traumatic events only experience some short-term distress, around 20% of people who experience trauma go on to develop PTSD. That is around 1 in 10 people at some point in their lives. PTSD is essentially a memory error caused by a traumatic event and when you experience something really traumatic your body temporarily stops ‘normal operations’ and so temporarily shuts down some bodily functions such as digestion and most importantly, memory processing.
Some experiences that people may have been exposed to that have caused PTSD are:
- Road traffic accidents
- Witnessing a death
- Pregnancy loss
- A situation where you have feared for your life
- Being repeatedly exposed to distressing images or details
- Terrorist attack
The list is not exhaustive, and different traumatic experiences could trigger PTSD in different people. Research has also shown that women have a two to three times higher risk of developing PTSD compared to men. The lifetime prevalence of PTSD is about 10–12% in women and 5–6% in men.
What Treatment Is There?
It was not long ago that people felt that PTSD was an incurable condition, but recent evidence and research show that it is possible to treat PTSD, even years after the incident occurred.
Talking therapies are the most common, popular, and effective treatments in dealing with PTSD. These therapies are Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR).
Under the umbrella of CBT, there is a Trauma Focussed CBT that has been specifically adapted. It is recommended to have 8-12 sessions, each last approximately an hour, with the same therapist to help you to come to terms with your trauma and deal with it and move on.
EDMR is a fairly new treatment that can reduce PTSD symptoms. It involves making rhythmic eye movements while recalling the traumatic event. The rapid eye movements are intended to create a similar effect to the way your brain processes memories and experiences while you’re sleeping.
All clinicians at Oxford CBT practice Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or are Psychologists, providing evidence-based interventions and support for a range of issues for both young people and adults. If you would like to book an appointment you can do so on our online booking portal. If you have a question please get in touch via our online contact form or call us on 01865 920077.