Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is a psychological condition that develops following an extremely stressful event or series of events that cause intense fear. Those with PTSD are much more likely than others to have major depression, problems with substance abuse, or panic disorder sometime in their lives.
In PTSD, factors associated with the original event elicit the same stressful feelings later on, so the affected person often tries to avoid these ‘triggers’.
Feelings of stress in response to a trauma are normal; PTSD is characterised by the intensity of the feelings, how long they last, how one behaves in response to these feelings, and the presence of particular symptoms.
Symptoms of PTSD may develop months or even years after the original trauma. These symptoms fall into three categories:
These involve reliving the traumatic event in some way:
- intrusive and vivid memories of the trauma;
- flashback in which we may feel as though the trauma is happening all over again;
- nightmares about the trauma; and
- trigger responses – aspects of our environment remind us of the trauma.
Avoidance of ‘triggers’
People with PTSD often avoid things in their environment which may trigger distressing memories of the trauma. They may include particular places, people, situation, topics of discussion etc.
They also try to avoid having these thoughts or feelings about the trauma and use drugs, alcohol, work, gambling or self harm to block them out.
People with PTSD usually feel very tense, wired, on edge, ‘ready for action’ and experience:
- disturbed sleep;
- problems with memory and concentration;
- are easily startled;
- have anxiety and panic attacks; and
- feel irritable and on edge.
Other problems commonly experienced include guilt, sadness, depression, mood swings, anger control problems, addictions and impulse control problems.
Most people who experience trauma will experience some kind of psychological reaction – this is part of a normal human reaction to an overwhelming experience. PTSD can affect people of any age, culture or gender.
Psychological treatments focus on a number of key areas:
- Relaxation training and anger management training
- Exposure therapy
- Mood control training
- Skills training for managing addictions
- Communication and relationship skills training
Treatment includes inpatient, or day patient programs. Family groups are very helpful in assisting partners and children to understand what is happening to their partner/parent.
Combat Related PTSD
Defence Force personnel are more likely than most to experience a number of traumatic incidents in their lives. The additional stress of military service and multiple deployments can also affect how some members of the military react to potentially traumatic events. We offer a combat-related PTSD program at Northside Cremorne Clinic and Greenslopes Private Hospital.