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PTSD Awareness Day

27 June is PTSD Awareness Day – created to raise awareness about the disorder and help overcome the stigma around it. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events.

 Nearly 6 out of every 100 people (or 6% of the population) will have PTSD at some point in their lives, and for millions of people around the world, the most traumatic events of their lives have never ended. PTSD is a lingering reminder of trauma, where flashbacks and triggers fill your daily life. 

Symptoms

Caused by many different things, among events like an accident, assault, a natural disaster, childhood trauma or seeing someone get killed can result in the following symptoms.

  • Distressing memories
  • Nightmares or flashbacks
  • Avoidance of trauma reminders
  • Negative thoughts and mood
  • Hypervigilance
  • Self-destructive or risk-taking behaviour
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleep problems

How PTSD affects people

Every person experience and deal with trauma differently. It's not uncommon for a person to go into shock or denial after an incident. People with PTSD have intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to a traumatic experience. These effects can last long after the traumatic event has ended.

These effects are relived through flashbacks or nightmares, leaving the person feeling sad, scared or angry. It is also common for them to feel isolated from other people. Living in constant fear and anxiousness, people with PTSD tend to avoid situations or people that remind them of the traumatic event and can often have strong negative reactions to something as simple as a loud noise or an accidental touch.

When a person experiences trauma, it doesn't just affect the individual, but can also have an impact the whole family. Whether the trauma is experienced in childhood or as an adult, it can continue to influence the person’s life at various points.

Childhood trauma

Childhood trauma impacts emotions and relationships with parents and family members, but it also unconsciously influences your partner selection and can impact all future relationships. Childhood trauma makes it difficult to move on with life.

Kristine Ovsepian, certified Hypnotherapist & Life Coach says, "Your childhood may seem like a lifetime ago. But, for many people, childhood experiences carry into their adulthood, like tattered old photos of the past." Issues that people struggle with today most likely originated in childhood. “When we don't get past them, or we mask them with harmful activities, we are burying the trauma deeper. It's sitting there bubbling under the surface like a volcano ready to explode," Ovsepian explained.

Treatment

Not everyone who experiences trauma develops PTSD, and not everyone who develops PTSD requires psychiatric treatment. For some people, symptoms of PTSD subside or fade over time. But many people with PTSD need professional treatment to recover from psychological distress that can be severe and disabling. PTSD is treatable, and the earlier a person gets treatment, the better chance of recovery.

PTSD can be successfully treated, even when it develops many years after a traumatic event.  Treatment depends on the severity of symptoms and how soon they occur after the traumatic event. There are various methods to help people recover from PTSD. Both talk therapy (psychotherapy) and medication provide effective evidence-based treatments for PTSD.

Any of the following treatment options may be recommended:

  • Watchful waiting – monitoring your symptoms to see whether they improve or get worse without treatment
  • A – such as paroxetine or sertraline
  • Psychological therapies – such as trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR)

 

In order to live life more intentionally, the first thing to do is to become conscious and understand the experiences and where they come from. Many people carry their past around without even realizing it. Once we acknowledge they exist, we can become better equipped to overcome them and let go.

Helping Someone With PTSD

PTSD can feel overwhelming and has a significant impact on a person’s life. It’s not up to you as a friend or loved one to try and cure someone with PTSD or force them to get help.

There are positive steps to take to show them you care and that you support them. You can also encourage them to seek treatment or find online support through teletherapy.

Knowing what to say or what not to say and how to act around a person who experiences PTSD is important and learning their triggers can be beneficial to both you and your loved one/friend.

- Educate Yourself on PTSD. This condition is often misunderstood with a lot of stigmas attached to it.

- Be Supportive. Out of anxiety or fear of judgment, someone with PTSD might avoid friends and family. Learning how to support someone with PTSD can help prevent this sense of isolation which often worsens symptoms.

- Be Patient. Talking about PTSD is difficult. Don’t pressure the person, when they are ready to share with you, they will.

- Listen. Listening is critical for social support. Practice active listening to show you’re engaged, but don’t try to compare your feelings or experiences to those of your friend.

- Don't Judge. Provide a safe space for your friend that they know will be judgment-free.

- Show Respect. Treat them with respect and avoid minimizing their feelings or trying to act as if didn’t happen.

- Learn About Their Triggers. Everyone’s triggers are unique and specific to their experiences. Talk to your friend about what their specific triggers are and find ways to help them avoid those whenever possible.

- Encourage Them to Seek Treatment. Explore the benefits of treatment and, when your friend is ready, share what you come up with. Remember forcing someone to go for treatment is beyond your control.

Support

Take some time today to understand the devastating effects of PTSD, as well as the potential causes and warning signs, and help raise awareness for those going through it.

A large part of the treatment of PTSD involves social support and opening up to others. For access to helplines and other useful resources, head to the following page: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd-and-complex-ptsd/useful-contacts/

 

Sources:

https://psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd

https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/overview/

https://www.calmingwindcounseling.com/post/trauma-and-it-s-impact-on-family-dynamics

https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/mental-health/ptsd/how-to-help-a-friend-with-ptsd/