Did you know around 12 per cent of Australians will experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in their lifetime?
When we talk about PTSD, sometimes the first thing that comes to mind is violent trauma associated with war veterans or first responders.
Yes, these occupations do have a statistically higher chance of living with PTSD simply due to the nature of their work. However, I just wanted to outline that PTSD can in fact, affect any of us. It works in mysterious ways and can manifest itself in several different forms.
What can trigger PTSD?
We link PTSD with some traumatic events such as serious crashes, accidents or physical and sexual assault, however we know that not all cases of PTSD are the result of huge trauma.
Some people can develop PTSD after a friend or family member experiences danger or harm or even the sudden, unexpected death of someone you care for deeply can also cause PTSD.
PTSD is not just linked to traumatic events. Complex post-traumatic stress disorder can develop in response to prolonged, repeated experience of interpersonal trauma in a context in which the individual has little or no chance of escape.
What does PTSD look like?
Again, this is where PTSD can be complex. PTSD is an anxiety disorder and the condition can come in many, varied forms and some you would least suspect.
A few examples include:
Flashbacks, nightmares and frightening thoughts
Staying away from places, events or objects that are reminders of the experience
Feeling emotionally numb
Feeling strong guilt, depression or worry
Losing interest in activities in hobbies and activities you thought were fun
Having trouble remembering the dangerous event
Feeling like you are living “on the edge”
Withdrawing from family and friends
In some cases suicidal thoughts
How long does PTSD last and when should I start to worry about my condition?
There is no time limit on PTSD, in fact some people live with the condition for their whole life. Each person is unique in how they cope with the symptoms. PTSD can re-occur so it’s important to be aware that something simple may cause a relapse.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder, so it can happen when you are stressed and burnt out which can lead to a lack of resilience that would allow you to process the event(s).
Having PTSD does not mean you are weak or can’t cope or you are not tough enough. It just means that the body and mind were unable to process the event(s) at the time. What is important however is understanding when to seek help. Untreated PTSD can have huge effects on your quality of life. If you feel any of the symptoms listed above begin to develop, it’s time to seek professional support. Someone I know has PTSD…so what now?
Nobody knows when we might be affected by an event that can deeply impact us, however we can always take measures to help keep us mentally strong and resilient should anything occur.
Many people experience some of the symptoms of PTSD in the first couple of weeks after a traumatic event, but most recover on their own or with the help of family and friends. If you feel like you or someone you know has experienced a traumatic episode, try some of the following:
Seek out support from your network of friends and family.
Educate yourself on impacts and symptoms of trauma and anxiety
Minimise other stressful life experiences to focus more on your recovery
Learn to self regulate using breathing techniques such as the Smiling app
When distressed, seek out support from your GP or mental health professional
If you are having suicidal thoughts please contact 000 or Lifeline on 131114.
Of course, it can be impossible to fully protect yourself from events that could impact our mental health, however what we can do is manage our symptoms and take the right action to make sure we minimise the impacts.