Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
In our everyday lives, any of us can have an experience that is overwhelming, frightening, and beyond our control. We could find ourselves in a car crash, be the victim of an assault, or see an accident. Most people, in time, get over experiences like this without needing help. In some people, though, traumatic experiences set off a reaction that can last for many months or years. This is called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD for short.
PTSD can start after any traumatic event. A traumatic event is one where we can see that we are in danger, our life is threatened, or where we see other people dying or being injured. Some typical traumatic events would be:
- serious accidents
- military combat
- violent personal assault (sexual assault, physical attack, abuse, robbery, mugging)
- being taken hostage
- terrorist attack
- being a prisoner-of-war
- natural or man-made disasters
- being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.
Even hearing about an the unexpected injury or violent death of a loved one or close friend can start PTSD.
People can tell if they have PTSD if they have experienced a traumatic event of the sort described. If they have, do they:
- have vivid memories, flashbacks or nightmares?
- avoid things that remind you of the event?
- feel emotionally numb at times?
- feel irritable and constantly on edge, but can’t see why?
- eat more than usual, or use more drink or drugs than usual?
- feel out of control of your mood?
- find it more difficult to get on with other people?
- have to keep very busy to cope?
- feel depressed or exhausted?
If it is less than 6 weeks since the traumatic event and these experiences are slowly improving, they may be part of the normal process of adjustment.
If it is more than 6 weeks since the event, and these experiences don’t seem to be getting better, it is worth talking it over with your doctor.