What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
Everyone experiences frightening situations in their lives. It is normal for us to feel nervous, have a hard time falling asleep, or have recurring thoughts about the situation after having experienced something frightening. The discomfort and disruption in our lives eventually go away, however, and we resume our normal lives.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is different. PTSD is a pervasive mental illness that is typically brought on by the experience of, or witnessing of, trauma associated with death, threat of death, serious injury, or sexual violence. Traumatic events are typically unexpected, and you often feel powerless to stop or change the event.
PTSD is not always brought on by a single event. Sometimes trauma is experienced over a longer period of time, such as in cases of abuse or during war. People in certain careers, such as military personnel, first responders, and health care providers, have higher rates of PTSD due to their regular exposure to traumatic events.
There are varied symptoms of PTSD, and not everyone will experience PTSD in the same way. Some of the common symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Re-experiencing the traumatic event (e.g. nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts)
- Avoidance of distressing memories, thoughts, and feelings
- Avoiding things that remind you of the traumatic event
- Inability to recall important aspects of the traumatic event
- Detachment from reality, where you act as if the traumatic event is recurring
- Difficulty concentrating
- Persistent negative emotions (e.g. sadness, fear, irritability, anger, etc.)
- Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
- Low self-esteem and self-blame
People with PTSD may be experiencing other mental health challenges at the same time. As a result, people with PTSD may turn to unhealthy coping strategies, such as drugs or alcohol, which can lead to substance dependence and abuse.
Counselling with a mental health professional, one that has specific training in treating individuals who have experienced trauma, has been proven to be a successful intervention for individuals with PTSD. The specially trained trauma therapists at Pathways Counselling can help you regain control of your life, rebuild self-esteem and confidence, and get you back to enjoying quality of life.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
- Canadian Mental Health Association. (2016). Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).