Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
A normal response to an abnormal situation
Many of us will experience traumatic events in our lifetime, from being involved in a motor vehicle accident to being a victim of crime or of natural disaster. It is important to remember that what traumatises one person may not do so for another, with personality, beliefs about oneself and the world, and previous experiences all affecting what experiences are perceived to be traumatic for any given person.
In the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event common experiences include:
feelings of shock, fear, anger, sadness and shame,
physical effects of disturbed sleep, being easily startled, palpitations and headaches,
thinking changes, such as memories of the event and distressing dreams,
changed behaviours, such as withdrawing from social contact, loss of interest in normal activities, poor motivation, and increased use of alcohol or other drugs.
If you have experienced trauma and are finding
it difficult to cope, it is important that you
seek professional assistance. If
you need assistance, please do not hesitate to
contact me on 1800 768 411.
So why may these changes occur? Traumatic events may shatter our beliefs about the world and about ourselves, such as our own safety and our ability to control our lives. After experiencing such events our brain may try to make sense of the experience, due to our basic human need to understand what is happening around us. One way in which our brain may do this is through unwanted thoughts, images or “videos” popping into our mind. Have you had nightmares, unwanted thoughts, images or “videos” pop into your mind, or have you experienced flashbacks of the event? This is your mind's way of trying to process the trauma, to make sense of the experience.
However, this reliving of the trauma often causes fear and distress and so is frequently pushed away. You may find yourself trying to avoid thinking about what happened and avoid reminders. What do you avoid? You may find yourself (perhaps unconsciously) avoiding emotions, feeling emotionally numb. This is a way for your mind to take some “time-out” so that you only deal with a particular amount of stress at any given time. Avoidance and numbing are understandable attempts to push away thoughts or feelings of what happened. However, this avoidance tends to keep the intrusive experiences mentioned above occurring, as the brain has not met its goal of understanding and making sense of what happened.
Another common aspect of post-trauma responses is hyperarousal, which is experienced due to your brain's desire to keep you safe. Your body stays on guard for anything that may trigger the unpleasant memories or be dangerous. This can result in your having concentration difficulties and feeling irritable and keyed up or on edge much of time.
So what can you do if you notice some of these changes following a traumatic event. Firstly, try to not block out thoughts of the incident or reminders of it. Engage in regular exercise and relaxing activities, and ensure you get plenty of rest and eat healthy meals. Try to resume your normal routine, and contact me on 1800 768 411 or your GP if the changes are particularly distressing or last longer than 6 weeks.