Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Are you concerned that you, or someone you care about, may be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

Many people experience traumatic events in life – car accidents, natural disasters, exposure to crime, the loss of a loved one, or the violence of war are just some of the challenges that people may face over the course of a lifetime.

These traumas affect people in different ways - strong and distressing feelings are a normal response in the days and weeks following a traumatic event, as the event is processed and contextualized, allowing us to accommodate the experience into our life story. As time passes these feelings become less acute, and many recover from the traumatic experience without needing professional support.

However, for some people, these feelings continue to be distressing for far longer, and their lives are impacted to the point that they are no longer able to cope at home or work. These are signs that they may be developing Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD and its symptoms frequently coexist with other conditions such as depression and alcohol/substance abuse, especially when PTSD is severe.

The basic message from both international and Australian sources is the same: without early intervention, diagnosis and effective treatment, the personal and economic costs of PTSD and associated co-occurring disorders, can be devastating for people suffering with PTSD, their families, and for our society.

Signs and Symptoms of PTSD:

Re-experiencing or re-living the event:

  • Intrusive memories, unwanted thoughts, sensations or images related to the trauma
  • Disturbing nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Intense emotional and physical reactions triggered by sights, sounds, smells or other sensations that are reminders of the traumatic event

Hyper-arousal:

  • Being overly alert
  • Having sleep difficulties or disturbances
  • Being unable to relax
  • Often feeling ‘wound up’, irritable and/or angry
  • Poor concentration and/or problems with memory
  • Feeling ‘on the look-out’, or ‘on guard’ for signs of danger (hyper-vigilance)
  • Being easily startled by sudden noises or unexpected things

Feeling numb:

  • Finding it hard to experience and/or express your feelings
  • Feeling detached or a lack of positive or loving feelings towards other people
  • Feeling numb and/or flat or ‘down’
  • Losing interest in activities that you used to enjoy

Avoidance behaviours:

  • Avoiding people and places associated with the traumatic event
  • Avoiding activities, thoughts and feelings which trigger distressing reminders of the event
  • Detaching or withdrawing from friends and family
  • Avoiding or withdrawing from emotional intimacy
  • Feeling vulnerable and avoiding situations that create anxiety
  • Avoid talking about the traumatic event

For some people these symptoms, and others, may reduce -without professional help, especially if they have supportive people around them.

However, recent research indicated that 86% of men and 76% of women with PTSD struggle with other mental health issues as time goes on - such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse issues- as they begin to use drugs and alcohol as a way of coping.

Trauma is cumulative when a person doesn’t have the opportunity to work through and contextualize the experience - which means that a history of developmental and/or repeated trauma increases the incidence, complexity and severity of PTSD. As coping and defence mechanisms begin to not work as well, or the effects of trauma break through, people struggling with the signs and symptoms of PTSD can be at serious risk of harming themself, and even suicide.

South Pacific Private specializes in treatment for people impacted by trauma and offers a range of clinical programs that can be matched to the needs of the individual.

PTSD can be related to other problems, which need to be diagnosed and treated at the same time to prevent relapse, such as anxiety, depression and addictions.

Factors influencing the development of PTSD

There are many factors that influence why some people develop PTSD after traumatic experiences. It is important to understand what some of these factors may be for you personally, as treatment will be more effective, and recovery easier to sustain, if all these factors are addressed during treatment, as possible.

Pre Event Factors

There are many aspects of your life story before the traumatic events, which may influence the way you react to trauma, and in the development of PTSD.  There are, however, some traumatic experiences where the exposure to trauma is so great (such as surviving a major airplane disaster in which almost everyone dies) that the influence of these factors is lessened.

Some of these pre-trauma factors are:

  • Previous exposure to severe adverse life events and experiences
  • History of depression or anxiety
  • Family history of mental illness
  • History of substance abuse or process addictions
  • Trouble with authority
  • Absence of social support
  • Unresolved grief and loss issues
  • Poor coping skills

Event Factors

There are also factors related to the way you may have experienced the traumatic event that contribute to the possibility of developing PTSD. These include:

  • Geographic nearness to the event
  • Level of exposure to the event
  • The meaning that you gave the event
  • How young or old you were at the time of the event
  • Degree of perceived helplessness
  • Duration of the trauma
  • The existence of an ongoing threat that the trauma will continue
  • Being involved in an intentional man-made traumatic event
  • Participation in an atrocity as a perpetrator or witness

Post-event Factors

Research shows that the development of PTSD is strongly influenced by several post event factors. These may include:

  • The absence of effective social support
  • Not being able to do anything about what happened
  • Having a passive rather than active coping style
  • Attitudes of self-pity, and feelings of victimhood
  • Inability to find meaning in the suffering

PTSD Realities

Recovery from PTSD is likely to be more successful when all contributing, underlying and environmental factors are addressed at the same time as the presenting symptoms and problems are treated.

Managing PTSD can be challenging, exhausting and risky when attempting it alone. For this reason professional support and treatment is strongly recommended.

PTSD is most effectively treated by health professionals, (Psychiatrists, Psychologists, therapists and nurses), who specialize in treating trauma related conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

If you would like to speak to someone who understands the challenges of living with PTSD, and who can discuss the your particular situation and treatment needs, we suggest that you call our assessment team who will offer a free and confidential preliminary chat, or full assessment if that is your preference.

Take the first step into treatment today by phoning or emailing our assessment team on 1800 063 332.

Do you need support right now?

If you are feeling hopeless, despairing or having thoughts of suicide, and need immediate help, we recommend you contact your doctor, local hospital, local mental health service, mental health professionals or Lifeline.

Lifeline 131114