The syndrome called PTSD can occur when a person has experienced, witnessed or been confronted by an event that would be very distressing to almost anyone. Such events would include serious threat or harm to one’s own life or that of another person as a result of, for example, an accident, physical or sexual assault, disaster or warfare. The person’s immediate responses usually involve intense fear, helplessness, horror and terror.

Sufferers of PTSD experience very distressing symptoms and some can be severely handicapping. These symptoms can include vivid unwanted mental pictures and thoughts of the trauma, which may happen without warning when the person is awake. The sufferer may feel at times that they are re-living the event, in the form of flashbacks. Some people find that they ‘separate’ from themselves during a traumatic incident, and find that they feel as if they are outside of their body watching what is happening to them.

In order to relieve some of their distress some sufferers of PTSD avoid situations that remind them of their trauma such as objects, television programmes, places or people For example, people that were involved in a train crash may avoid travelling by train, people that were mugged may avoid the places that remind them of where they were attacked.

For many, one of the most distressing symptoms is sleep disturbance. This may take the form of difficulty in getting to sleep, and/or being unable to stay asleep, waking frequently throughout the night. Distressing dreams and nightmares may also occur. Lack of sleep and preoccupation with the trauma can also severely affect concentration and memory.

Some people find that they startle easily and are very ‘jumpy’, and that they react irritably to small provocation. Others find that they are very aware of needing to know exactly who and what is around them, and that they are constantly monitoring their surroundings. It is almost as if they expect danger around every corner. Physical symptoms. for example, palpitations, sweating, nausea, diarrhoea, panic attacks, difficulty breathing, and muscular tension are not uncommon

Other Associated Difficulties:

Trauma victims are also likely to become more angry and irritable than they used to be. In an attempt to reduce their anxiety they may start to abuse alcohol or other drugs, which in turn can exacerbate both feelings of anger and depression.

Frequently people suffer from feelings of guilt, which can arise from surviving a disaster in which other people have died, or from feeling that in some way they were responsible for the traumatic incident. Sufferers sometimes want to talk about the event to everyone that they see, some do not want to talk about it at all. Some feel that there is nothing wrong with them and find it very difficult to accept that there is anything amiss. It is important to note that we all react differently to trauma.

A particularly disabling but relatively common longer term response to severe trauma is depression. This is a low state of mind with feelings of sadness, tiredness, and sometimes despair. The sufferer may find that their appetite changes and their weight may change, they may also find that they are unable to sleep properly. In very severe cases thoughts of self harm or suicide may occur.

Although the anxiety symptoms are the ones which often receive most attention, other responses can be more disabling and longer lasting.

When should help be sought?

Most people find that within a few months their symptoms have reduced and that they feel a lot better and do not need to find help. But others find that their symptoms do not resolve and that they do need help to get back to how they were before the traumatic event.

Information Courtesy of:
ASSIST
Assist is an organisation dedicated to offering support, understanding and friendship to individuals and families affected by Trauma.

The Penthouse
11 Bank Street
Rugby
Warwickshire
CV21 2QE

Tel : 01788 551919
Helpline : 01788 560800
Email : assist@traumatic-stress.freeserve.co.uk

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