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Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

A traumatic event is a difficult or burdensome experience that naturally affects people and often takes time to recover from. Traumatic events vary in severity and people’s sensitivity towards them varies. However, some traumatic events are so severe that they would cause vast difficulties for most people. When people experience a serious traumatic event that threatens their life, the life of others, their welfare or the welfare of others, and they experience great fear, horror or powerlessness during the traumatic event, it is common for people to experience symptoms of traumatic stress or even develop post-traumatic stress disorder.

Post-traumatic stress is not necessarily a sign of post-traumatic stress disorder but may be a natural response to a difficult life experience. If symptoms of traumatic stress are still present, disturbing life and causing distress, and more than a month has passed since the traumatic event, it can possibly be due to a post-traumatic stress disorder. Post-traumatic stress disorder is common and it is estimated that about 10% of people will have it at some point in their life.

The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder are numerous and must always be diagnosed by a professional. The following are the main categories of symptoms, but professionals look at many factors, such as number of symptoms, for diagnosis and the symptoms are much more than what is listed here.

  • Reliving the traumatic event in some way (e.g. memories, flashbacks or dreams)
  • Avoiding situations, stimulus, thoughts and other things which remind the individual of the traumatic event
  • Negative changes in mindset or deteriorating condition (e.g. guilt, less interest in important activities, difficulty remembering issues related to the traumatic event and difficulties in experiencing positive emotions)
  • Altered levels of stimulation and response (e.g. irritability, self-harm, carelessness, easily startled and sleep disorders)

It is important that individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder seek assistance. People that have been traumatised but do not meet the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder can also benefit greatly from processing their trauma. It can be very difficult to overcome traumatic events and difficulties and distress associated with a traumatic event should not be ignored, even if it occurred a long time ago.