PTSD is an anxiety disorder which occurs as a result of exposure to, or involvement in a stressful, distressing event, or after a prolonged or repetitive traumatic experience. The types of events which can lead to experiencing PTSD include; violent assaults, witnessing violent deaths, military combat, serious road traffic accidents, terrorist attacks, prolonged abuse or violence, natural disasters, e.g., earthquakes, floods, as well as any situation in which you fear for your life, or there is a serious threat of harm.
How an individual responds to a distressing event is dependent on their previous life experiences, their coping skills, the support available to them and their own well-being. People can be witness to the same distressing event, but not all will experience a trauma response as a result of it.
Symptoms of PTSD include;
- Reliving aspects of the traumatic event through; flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, experiencing physical sensations related to the event, e.g., pain, sweating, breathlessness, etc.
- Avoidance - trying to keep busy to avoid thinking about the event, using alcohol or drugs to block out memories, avoidance of reminders of the trauma, feeling numb, being unable to recall details of the event, etc.
- Alertness, hyper-arousal and hyper-vigilance, i.e., being constantly aware of potential threats or danger, being easily startled, finding it hard to concentrate, panicking, irritability, sleep disturbance, anxiety symptoms, etc.
- Difficult beliefs - feeling unable to trust others, feeling nowhere is safe, feeling guilty or to blame for what happened, ‘survivor guilt’, feeling angry, loss of enjoyment and loss of interest in things, etc.