After a traumatic event it is normal to feel symptoms such as shock, anxiety, stress, upset and disconnection. However, if these symptoms don’t fade and your left with with ongoing anxiety and tainted memories, you may be suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Counselling and psychotherapy can be highly effective in helping people manage and overcome the often debilitating symptoms caused by post-traumatic stress.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by the experiencing or witnessing of a very stressful, frightening or traumatic event.
PTSD is estimated to affect about 1 in every 3 people who have had a traumatic experience. It can occur immediately or it can develop weeks, months or even years after the event took place.
Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms can arise suddenly, gradually or come and go over time. Sometimes symptoms seem to be in remission and then unexpectedly, they may re-occur for no obvious reason. At other times, symptoms are brought on by specific triggers which provide a reminder of the original event. These can be certain words or images, a particular noise or even a smell.
It is normal to experience a range of emotions after a traumatic incident. However, when the symptoms last for more than a month and start to interfere with your daily life, you may be suffering from PTSD.
There are many types of traumatic event that can lead to PTSD. Some common situations include:
Hearing about a serious injury or the death of a loved one can also lead to PTSD for some individuals.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms
Everyone experiences PTSD differently. However, there are three common symptom groups which can be accompanied by other additional symptoms:
Re-experiencing the Traumatic Event
This is the feeling that the trauma incident is happening again. This can be caused by sudden “flash backs”, thoughts, images and nightmares. Even a sound or a smell can trigger your body into a full physical re-experiencing of all or part of what took place, or perhaps more sensations that you felt during the event itself.
Avoidance or Numbing
The attempt to avoid any person, situation or event that might trigger any memory or sensation connected to the trauma event is a common ‘avoidance’ symptom. When numbing occurs it is as if the mind and body block out any memory or physical sensation that can provide any reminder of the event. This numb feeling can also intrude upon day to day living in the form of a pervading sense of detachment or disinterest.
Hyper Arousal and Increased Anxiety
This is when you find yourself in a constant state of vigilance for any person, place or thing that could trigger an emotional or physiological reminder in your body. The effort required to maintain this constant state of alertness tends to give rise to increased levels of anxiety, tension, irritability and exhaustion.
Other common Symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder include:
- Constantly feeling tense, nervous, confused, empty or on edge.
- Thoughts or images of the trauma flashing into your mind at unexpected or inappropriate times.
- Intolerable body sensations or intense feelings – heart pounding, sweating, nausea, fear, dread.
- Becoming distressed whenever the trauma is remembered.
- Disturbed sleep patterns and nightmares.
- Feelings of guilt, shame or self-blame
- Relationships with others become difficult to deal with and suffer as a result.
- Difficulty focusing, concentrating or performing well at work.
- Increased levels of drinking, smoking or taking medication excessively since the event.
- Feeling compelled to keep active in order to avoid uncomfortable distressing feelings.
- Feeling alone and isolated.
Additional side effects of PTSD can include:
Your trauma psychotherapist can provide a safe, confidential space where you can learn concrete strategies for coping with the intense physiological symptoms caused by post-traumatic stress disorder. Your trauma counsellor can also help you understand certain factors that are often outside the trauma occurrence itself, but can significantly contribute to your ongoing symptoms. You will learn how to address these, and this combined approach can enable you to rebuild your confidence and feel more in control of your life again.
Different Psychotherapy and Counselling Treatment for PTSD
Some common counselling and psychotherapy approaches used to help people overcome post-traumatic stress disorder include:
Integrative psychotherapy is an individually tailored type of therapy that combines elements from a broad spectrum of psychotherapy approaches. Your therapist will take into consideration the nature of your trauma and your personality style in order to create a course of treatment that is best suited to your unique needs. It may also include elements that can help address other issues which can contribute to PTSD symptoms such as anxiety, depression, phobias and OCD.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioural therapy can be very useful in helping people understand their thought patterns and how to weed out those that are unhelpful or harmful, and contribute to making symptoms worse.
It is not unusual for people who have undergone a traumatic event to blame themselves for things they couldn’t have changed. CBT can help you understand how the event was not your fault and change the way you think about what happened. Learn more about cognitive behavioural therapy at KlearMinds
CBT therapy can help give PTSD sufferers a feeling of control over their fear and help them come to terms with what happened to them. You can learn how to replace any unhelpful thoughts with more realistic ones and thereby develop the capacity to cope much better when presented with a trigger. You can also discover how to alleviate any associated feelings such as guilt, fear or anger.
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR employs a series of side-to-side eye movements which are used to help reduce the symptoms of PTSD. This approach can help people more effectively process flashbacks and memories and lessen their impact.
EMDR can help change the way you react to the memories of what happened to you. You might be asked to focus on stimuli such as hand taps, sounds or eye movements while talking about such memories. Evidence indicates this approach can help people change how they react to the memories over time.
At KlearMinds our experienced PTSD psychotherapists and counsellors can help you address the impact of this disorder, in the following ways.
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