Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a disorder that causes distress and anxiety that can occur after being exposed to a major crisis.
PTSD can be caused by many different stressors. According to the US National Center for PTSD, between 7 and 8 per cent of people experience PTSD at some point in their lives.
PTSD is a treatable condition, and many people with PTSD are able to manage their symptoms successfully after receiving effective treatment.
What Causes PTSD
PTSD is caused by exposure to trauma, including experiencing, witnessing, or even learning about a traumatic experience.
Events that can lead to PTSD:
- military combat
- sexual or physical abuse
- abuse or neglect
- natural disasters
- traffic accident (motorcycle, etc.)
- serious injury
- traumatic birth (postpartum PTSD)
- diagnosis of life-threatening diseases
- being sectioned or getting treatment in a mental health ward
- evidence of violence and death
Experiences that can lead to PTSD:
- being abused, harassed or bullied – including racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia or transphobia, and other types of abuse targeting your identity
- seeing other people hurt or killed, including in the course of your job (sometimes called secondary trauma)
- doing a job where you repeatedly see or hear distressing things, such as working in the emergency services or armed forces
- surviving a natural disaster, such as flooding, earthquakes or pandemics, such as the coronavirus pandemic
- losing someone close to you in particularly upsetting circumstances
Risk factors for PTSD:
- having a history of mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, depression, or OCD
- having little help from your friends and family after the occasion
- experiencing trauma or other stress around the event
PTSD develops in about 1 in 3 people who experience severe trauma.
In addition to experiencing reminders of the traumatic event, certain brain structures and stress hormones may also play a role in the development of PTSD.
In people with PTSD, the hippocampus is smaller. However, it remains unclear whether the hippocampus is smaller before a traumatic event or if its size decreases due to trauma.
Researchers believe that a malfunctioning hippocampus can prevent the brain from properly processing trauma, which can lead to PTSD.
Similarly, people with PTSD have high levels of stress hormones that are released during times of danger. An increase in these hormones may be the cause of some of the symptoms of PTSD, such as restlessness and extreme anger.
There are a number of “resilience factors” too, which are factors that help someone develop PTSD after a traumatic event.
The factors that make PTSD less common:
- have a strong support network
- learn to use positive coping strategies to deal with negative emotions
- feel good about the actions you took when you experienced the accident
That doesn’t mean that people who develop PTSD are weak or strong. If you have post-traumatic stress disorder, it is not your fault. PTSD is an innate, commonly understood reaction to trauma.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
There are many symptoms of PTSD. Symptoms of PTSD
- intrusive thoughts where you can not stop thinking about the traumatic event or experience
- mood changes such as hopelessness, depression, or anxiety
- feeling guilty or ashamed
- feeling uninterested in your relationships, work, or hobbies
- recoil, which can make you feel like you’re reacting to the impulse
- frequent nightmares about the event or experiences
- feeling out-of-control emotions when something reminds you of that event
- difficulty concentrating, sleeping, or eating
- engaging in self-harming behaviour, including substance abuse
- suicidal thoughts
- panic attacks and overwhelming feelings of fear
- negative convictions or assumptions regarding oneself, others, or the world
The symptoms of PTSD can become overwhelming, and it is important to seek out PTSD therapy and treatment as soon as possible. As a trauma practitioner, I can provide helpful support and guidance.
Certain reminders or triggers of the traumatic event can cause or worsen PTSD symptoms.
What’s the treatment for PTSD?
The most common treatments for PTSD include talk therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.
Talk therapy for PTSD
Talk therapy, or psychotherapy, usually involves talking with a mental health professional about your experiences and symptoms. Different kinds of therapy are effective for treating PTSD. These include:
Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT):
CBT involves the therapist discussing the trauma and symptoms with you, helping you to identify negative thought patterns and replacing them with positive ones.
This therapy helps people process trauma by talking about their experience and working through the emotions connected to it.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy:
EMDR therapy is an interactive psychological technique that involves moving your eyes from side to side while recalling the trauma so that you can process the event outside of the strong emotions attached to the memories.
The Richards Trauma Process (TRTP):
The Richards Trauma Process has been specifically designed to resolve trauma and is a very effective treatment to resolve the effects of PTSD. In a Preliminary Outcome Report in 2019, TRTP therapy was assessed as being 89-92% effective for overcoming depression and anxiety treatment after 3 – 4 sessions.
Medication for PTSD
Some prescription medications, such as sertraline (Zoloft) and paroxetine (Paxil), have been shown to be effective in treating the symptoms of PTSD.
A number of lifestyle changes and self-care practices can help you manage your symptoms, including:
- Learn about PTSD to better recognize your symptoms
- Exercise and Journaling
- Have a strong network of friends
- Reduce negative coping mechanisms such as drug and alcohol abuse
- Join a support group
If you feel suicidal or have a PTSD-related emergency, seek help immediately by contacting your healthcare provider or a trusted loved one, or by going to the nearest emergency room at your local hospital.
If you have PTSD or suspect you do, you should seek treatment. Left untreated, PTSD can affect your relationships and daily functioning. It can make it challenging to work, study, eat or rest. It may also lead to suicidal thoughts. Fortunately, it is possible to find effective treatments that reduce or even stop many of the symptoms of PTSD. Stone Wellbeing provides post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment in Melbourne to those who require it. Give me a call or book a time for an introductory call, to find out how I can assist you.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is caused by exposure to a severely traumatic event or experience.
Although the symptoms of PTSD can be challenging to cope with, there are effective treatments available, including talk therapy, medication, and positive lifestyle changes.
If you think you or someone you know may need help and attention, post-traumatic stress disorder treatment in Melbourne is available at Stone Wellbeing. Call me or book an appointment for an introductory call, to find out how.