What is post traumatic stress disorder?

At some stage in your life you are likely to experience or witness a traumatic event or know someone who has. Research indicates that 65% of men and 50% of women are exposed to trauma during their lifetime.

Traumatic events vary. They can occur naturally, such as a bushfire, flood or earthquake. They can also be man made, such as a work place incident (e.g. a hold-up, machinery accident), physical, emotional or sexual assault, or a car crash.

Stress versus post traumatic stress disorder

It is common to experience symptoms of stress following a traumatic event. For many people, the symptoms are short lived and disappear within days or weeks without any treatment, especially with the support of family and friends.

However, for some people, the stress symptoms are more severe and last longer. Certain events can result in feelings of intense fear, helplessness and horror. These events may interfere with health, relationships and quality of life for months or even years after the traumatic event. When symptoms of stress are severe and long lasting, they are given the name Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Different types of responses to trauma

PTSD can be acute, where symptoms that last for about 1 to 3 months, and chronic, where the person has symptoms lasting over 3 months. For both acute and chronic PTSD, the symptoms seriously interfere with the person’s ability to function at work and or at home.

In a few cases, symptoms appear months or years after the original traumatic incident. This is known as delayed onset PTSD. The symptoms may be triggered by an anniversary, or an experience that reminds the person of the original trauma.

What happens when we experience trauma?

The feelings of distress that accompany memories of a traumatic event can lead you to start to avoid memories or reminders of the event. This avoidance means that you don’t give yourself the opportunity to adequately process and make sense of the traumatic event.

Avoiding the memories may work in the short term, but eventually the memories return. Plus, you may find that you become extremely sensitive, and feel anxious and on edge most of the time, affecting your wellbeing and quality of life. Therefore, getting treatment for PTSD is very important.

Treating post traumatic stress disorder

Anxiety Online’s PTSD Online program can help you come to terms with the trauma and reduce your stress and anxiety. Treatment includes breathing and relaxation training and cognitive therapy to learn to identify unhelpful thoughts, beliefs and assumptions.

Treatment also includes exposure work, whereby you learn to make sense of the trauma by being gently guided to confront it and reflect on its meaning. You’ll learn to feel more comfortable when in contact with people, places and situations that remind you of the traumatic experience.