WHAT DOES PTSD STAND FOR?
PTSD is an acronym for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Increasingly in the media, PTSD is gaining more attention and rightfully so. PTSD is a disorder that can affect anyone – male, female, young, and elderly. In fact, about 10% of Canadians struggle with PTSD at any given time. You may be wondering…what is it anyway? Who does it affect and what are the symptoms? Is it only veterans who end up with PTSD or can anyone “get it”? Read on for a few fast facts about PTSD…
WHAT CAUSES PTSD?
- Any threat to your safety or even an event that appeared to have been a threat to your safety
- Any event that overwhelms you with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness especially if it feels unpredictable an uncontrollable.
- An imminent threat where some form of defensive response is necessary
- A frightening, shocking, or dangerous event
- Events such as:
- Car accidents
- Serious injury
- Actual or threatened death of your life or others’ lives
- Sexual violation
- Medical procedures
- After combat, assault or disaster (PTSD affects nearly 1 in 10 Canadian veterans who served in Afghanistan)
Not everyone who has these experiences end up being diagnosed with PTSD. However, about 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year. Approximately 10% of women develop PTSD in their lives compared to about 4% of men. Some people may have PTSD but don’t realize that’s what it is that they are struggling with.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Following a particularly traumatic event we often exhibit physical symptoms immediately. But the effects in our brains actually take some time to form. That’s why symptoms of PTSD — reliving an event, nightmares, and anxiety — don’t show up until some time later. These may include:
- Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the event
- avoiding thinking or talking about the event
- avoiding people, places or activities that remind you of the traumatic experience
- avoiding feelings or thoughts related to the event
- Difficulty maintaining close relationships
- Flashbacks, or reliving the event, potentially paired with racing heart and sweating
- Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
- Trouble sleeping and/or nightmares
- Frightening thoughts
- Increased arousal including feeling tense or on edge, having trouble sleeping, angry outbursts, irritability, aggressive behaviour, and being easily startled or frightened
- Negative changes in thinking and mood such as:
- Negative feelings about yourself or others
- Inability to experience positive emotions
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Hopelessness about the future
- Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
- Always on guard for danger
- Overwhelming guilt or shame
- Self-destructive behaviour, such as drinking too much or driving fast
- Trouble concentrating
WHY ARE SOME PEOPLE EFFECTED WHILE OTHERS ARE NOT?
A group of people may experience the same event but they won’t necessarily all end up with PTSD. There are a number of factors that can effect the chances of PTSD including:
- A complex mix of inherited mental health risks, such as increased anxiety or depression
- Life experiences including the amount and severity of trauma you’ve gone through since childhood
- Your temperament
- The way your body regulates the chemicals and hormones your body releases in response to stress
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I THINK I MIGHT HAVE PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder can be a debilitating condition. If you have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event you may also be experiencing some of the symptoms listed above. If the symptoms don’t go away over time and are disrupting your life you may have PTSD. If this is the case, early treatment is better. Talk to your family doctor and a therapist who specializes in trauma treatment. Confide in a close friend or family member and do your best not to isolate yourself.
There are also ways to alleviate PTSD triggers such as mindfulness techniques, connecting with resources who understand what you are going through and are able to support you in your recovery, and using grounding techniques. If you would like to meet with me to work through your unresolved trauma. I would welcome the opportunity.
If you think you are in danger of hurting yourself or someone else call 911 immediately. There is help available, you don’t have to go through this on your own.
Wishing you a gentle journey,