Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition which is caused by a terrifying or distressing event. The mental disorder can be caused by either experiencing an event or being witness to it. Symptoms of PTSD can include; nightmares, severe anxiety and flashbacks. Sufferers may have uncontrollable thoughts which are related to the event.

Mental problems caused by a traumatic event can improve over time. In cases where these symptoms persist over a long period, get worse, and are affecting day to day life, PTSD might be diagnosed.

It is important that the right treatment for PTSD is administered, in order to reduce symptoms and allow normal life to be resumed.

What causes PTSD?

PTSD can stem from experiencing, witnessing, or learning about an event which is very distressing. This could be a serious injury caused through accident, an actual or threatened fatality, or a sexual violation. While the exact cause of PTSD has not yet been determined, it is thought that the condition is caused by one or more of the following: Mental health risks which are inherited, such as depression or anxiety; prior traumas which have been experienced; characteristics of the individual affected; how an individual’s brain and body reacts to severe stress.

Treatment options for PTSD

Therapy and counselling

There are several forms of therapy and counselling which can be effective in treating PTSD. Talking to a therapist can help PTSD sufferers to deal with the past and make the necessary mental adjustments to move forward. The chance to talk about the feelings connected with PTSD can be crucial to this process.

Forms of therapy can include cognitive therapy, a form of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), which can help PTSD sufferers to come to terms with the fact that the traumatic event which they experienced was not their fault. It involves the identification of the thoughts which are making you upset, and the exercise of replacing them with more positive, accurate and less stressful thoughts.

Exposure therapy, which aims to confront the fear which PTSD sufferers can often feel by talking about these thoughts, is another option. There is also a therapy developed by psychologist Francine Shapiro called eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR), which uses stimuli such as eye movements and sounds when talking about specific memories. This is a form of therapy which has the ability to reduce PTSD symptoms in some people.