Once only known as “shell shock” a vague condition affecting war veterans, it is now known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I was diagnosed with P.T.S.D in December of last year after three long years of hiding the extent of an unhealthy relationship that happened while I was sixteen years old. I was unable to sleep due to fear of nightmares, I couldn’t concentrate due to flashbacks and I was always jumpy. Within the last year I have been through yet another unhealthy relationship, in my eyes even more manipulative and threatening which has caused these symptoms to return but with a different person.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by reliving a psychologically traumatic situation, long after any physical danger involved has passed, through flashbacks and nightmares.Around 7% of the population suffer from this disorder. Around 10% of women develop PTSD, compared with only 5% of men. This mental illness effects one in ten people. It is also among the most common mental health diagnosis.
The cause of PTSD is a psychologically traumatic event involving actual or threatened death or serious injury to oneself or others. Such triggering events are called ‘stressors.’ Some examples of traumatic events could include; an attack or assault (ie. mugging), a natural disaster (such as hurricane Sandy), rape, car or plane accidents.
Symptoms of PTSD usually arise within the first three months of the traumatic event, although there are cases of them arising many years later also. Symptoms must occur for a minimum of a month to be diagnosed with PTSD. There are three categories of symptoms of PTSD, they are:
- Re-experiencing - This is the main characteristic of PSTD. Powerful, recurrent memories of the event, or recurrent nightmares or flashbacks in which they relive their distressing experience. These can also be triggered by anniversaries of the event or objects and situations that remind one of the event. I have personally had vivid flashbacks caused by using or seeing objects (such as cups and utensils) from the apartment I lived in with my abuser.
- Avoidance - Avoiding activities, thoughts, feelings or conversations that remind the person of the event; feeling numb to one’s surroundings; or being unable to remember details of the event. Personally the biggest shock was going through my current treatment program and realizing all that I had forgotten or “stored away” about my negative relationships.
- Hyperarousal - Feeling that one can never relax and must be on guard all the time to protect oneself, trouble sleeping, feeling irritable, overreacting when startled, angry outbursts or trouble concentrating. I personally have the issue of being “on guard” at all times, I have since my first traumatic relationship at sixteen. Until recently I did not know it was even a symptom.
Treatment options for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder include, Counselling and psychotherapy, prescription drugs (for symptoms of depression and anxiety). The treatment options found most promising in treating PTSD is group therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, these are often performed by therapists experienced in certain types of traumas, such as rape. I currently am waiting to be accepted into a cognitive behavioral trauma program.
Have you experience a traumatic event that caused PTSD? What are you doing to deal and treat PTSD?