What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and 4 ways to know if you have it

Post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly known as PTSD, can be very debilitating. It presents itself with a number of symptoms that can be distressing for both the person who experiences them and people who are around them.

It usually starts at least a month after a traumatic event takes place.

What’s a Traumatic Event?
Generally, it’s an event in which the traumatised person thought that they, or someone close to them, were going to die or suffer from severe harm. But it can include all sorts of experiences that are perceived by the traumatised person as dangerous.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?
Usually symptoms are grouped in categories:

  • Traumatic memories intrusions: this is when the person experiences flashbacks, in the form of images, feelings or body sensations.
  • Avoidance of any reminders of the traumatic event, even when the link is symbolic. For example, if someone had a car accident, which they found traumatic, they may not want to sit in enclosed spaces resembling the space within the car.
  • Sudden changes in mood and anxiety, which can be triggered very easily. This problem is also known as emotional dysregulation.
  • Being very alert and jumpy, for example when walking in the dark or hearing a sudden noise.
  • More often than not, feeling spaced out and experiencing out-of-body sensations. This phenomenon is also known as dissociation.

5 ways to determine if you have PTSD?

1. Find any written information pertaining to psychological trauma, from reputable websites and books.

3. Talk to your GP, as they will definitely have at least a broad idea of what PTSD is and can direct you to get the right help.

2. Talk to trusted people in your life, such as close friends or family members.

4. Have an introductory chat with a mental health professional, such a psychologist, psychotherapist or counsellor, to discuss your symptoms and whether it would be helpful to embark on therapy.

How can you cure your PTSD?
Bear in mind that one of the biggest factors that will not allow you to heal from PTSD is hiding your emotional struggles from others, because it reinforces your strong sense of shame. It is easy to blame ourselves for what happened to us, but it is not helpful or healthy. This is why trauma-focused psychotherapies, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) are the best ways to address PTSD, because they enable the person to break the spell of their traumatic past so that they can live in the present, without being dragged back to the traumatic experience... and finally move on.

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“Healing takes courage, and we all have courage, even if we have to dig a little to find it.”
Tori Amos

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