PTSD and Trauma

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition which is typically triggered by a very frightful or terrifying event. Events can include those which are experienced, or witnessed.

What is PTSD and trauma?

While the majority of people who experience or witness events which have caused major distress - also known as trauma - can find it is difficult to cope and adjust to life afterwards, their mental state usually improves over time. However, if symptoms last for longer than a few months, worsen instead of improving, and continue to impact on everyday life, this could be a sign of PTSD.

PTSD symptoms can start within a month of a traumatic event. Although sometimes, symptoms may not arise until years after an event. There are four main types of PTSD symptoms; intrusive memories, including the 'reliving' of the event in the mind, upsetting dreams, or severe emotional distress; avoidance, including trying to avoid talking or thinking about the traumatic event, and avoiding certain places; negative changes in thinking and mood, including thoughts about yourself and other people; and changes in physical and emotional reactions, such as always being on guard and being easily frightened.

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Causes of PTSD

PTSD can be attributed to a number of causes, including; a stressful experience, such as a near-death experience, sexual violation or serious injury; inherited personality features; inherited mental health risks; and the way in which your brain regulates hormones and chemicals released by the body when stress is encountered.

Diagnosing of PTSD

As part of the diagnostic process for PTSD, it is normal for your doctor to perform a physical examination, checking for any medical problems which may be causing symptoms. A psychological assessment offers the opportunity for the patient to discuss their signs and symptoms, and the events which resulted in them.

Treatment of PTSD

Psychotherapy is the main treatment for PTSD. It can be effective in; helping you to think in better terms about yourself and others; treating related problems such as anxiety and depression; teaching skills to address symptoms, and teaching skills to cope with symptoms in the long term.

Types of psychotherapy treatment include cognitive therapy, which can help you to recognise the thinking patterns leading to thoughts which are part of the PTSD. You may also receive exposure therapy, which can help you to face memories or situations which might be distressing, in a safe manner.

There are several medications which are proven to be effective in the treatment of PTSD, including; anti-anxiety medications, which can relieve anxiety and related issues; anti-depressants, which can help to address symptoms such as depression and anxiety, improve sleep, and make it easier to concentrate; and prazosin, which has been seen to reduce nightmares for some people who have PTSD, although its effectiveness is still the subject of debate.

If you think you might have PTSD, usually the first step to treatment is to book an appointment for a consultation with a doctor or mental health professional.