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Post traumatic stress disorder

 

When people see the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), many associate this with the armed forces or war veterans. PTSD was indeed first recognised in soldiers when they came back from conflicts around the world, but today PTSD can be diagnosed in anyone who suffers trauma.

 

When someone experiences a traumatic event in their lives, such as a sudden death in the family or when witnessing a serious accident, they will often feel numb or they have sleep disruption for a few weeks. Most people will find these symptoms disappear within a month. However, when symptoms linger, PTSD may be the problem.

 

GPs often categorise PTSD as mild, moderate or severe, depending on the symptoms and how they are impacting the patient's life. Regardless of the type of PTSD, it is important to seek help.

 

Different people will react differently when faced with trauma. Some have very high thresholds while others will experience symptoms soon after the event.

 

Events that can trigger PTSD

 

Traumatic events in life are unfortunately all too common. The sudden death of a close family member or a close friend can be extremely disturbing. So too can accidents or fatalities at work. Being involved in a car accident or witnessing a serious accident can often bring on delayed-onset PTSD.

 

Here are some common triggers:

 

  • being involved in a car accident
  • being involved in an accident at work
  • witnessing a serious accident
  • being assaulted
  • abuse or domestic violence
  • surviving an accident where others have been injured or killed
  • a sudden death in the family or at work
  • being diagnosed with a serious illness
  • breaking up with someone
  • surviving a natural disaster
  • doing a job where you are exposed to repeated trauma or distressing images
  • working as a counsellor without debriefing properly

 

Therapies for PTSD

 

Trauma-focussed cognitive behavioural therapy (TF-CBT) is a popular treatment for PTSD. Adapted from CBT, this technique aims to help those who have experienced trauma to learn how to manage their emotions and feelings towards the trauma.

 

The technique begins by teaching the client about trauma and how it affects the human brain. This first phase is known as 'stabilisation;. The next phase is to recreate the trauma in a controlled way, allowing the client to identify their emotions and feelings as they re-live the event. The outcome from this approach can be extremely positive.

 

The final phase of TF-CBT consolidates the learnings while continuing to build coping strategies.

 

A simple questionnaire

 

People who suffer from PTSD need to be carefully diagnosed by a doctor or therapist. If you are in doubt, seek professional help.

 

If you have experienced a traumatic event in the past six months, the following questionnaire can help determine whether you might be suffering from PTSD, or you are at risk from the illness.

 

For each of the 22 questions, rate the answer as either:

 

  • not at all, 0
  • a little bit, 1
  • moderately, 2
  • quite a bit, 3
  • extremely, 4

 

Total up the answers and if the score should be between 0 and 88. If the score comes out higher than 24, PTSD may be a concern. A score exceeding 37 indicates that PTSD is probable and help should be sought.

 

During the last seven days......

 

  1. Any reminder of the event brings back feelings about it
  2. I had trouble staying asleep
  3. Other things kept making me think about the event
  4. I felt irritable and angry
  5. I avoided letting myself get upset when I thought about the event or was reminded of it
  6. I thought about the event when I didn't mean to
  7. I felt as if the event hadn't happened to me or it wasn't real
  8. I stayed away from reminders of the event
  9. Pictures about the event popped into my mind
  10. I was jumpy and easily startled
  11. I tried not to think about the event
  12. I was aware that I still had a lot of feelings about the event but I didn't deal with them
  13. My feelings about the event were kind of numb
  14. I found myself acting or feeling like I was back at that time
  15. I had trouble falling asleep
  16. I had waves of strong feelings about the event
  17. I tried to remove the event from my memory
  18. I had trouble concentrating
  19. Reminders of the event caused me to have physical reactions, such as sweating and nausea
  20. I had dreams about the event
  21. I felt watchful and on-guard
  22. I tried not to talk about the event

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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