According to a recent study, three out of 100 people in the UK have screened positive for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, but the real number is estimated to be higher than that, mostly because people have an incomplete understanding of how PTSD manifests and often downplay symptoms and delay seeking treatment. Commonly associated with former members of the military, PTSD can actually affect all categories of the population, and the first signs can appear months or years after a traumatic event. Sometimes, even pinpointing the exact place where your fears come from can be difficult, which makes professional support all the more important.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder that appears after witnessing or being involved in a threatening event that causes shock, fear, helplessness, and horror. The most common example given in popular culture is that of veterans who have witnessed the horrors of war, but there are many other examples of traumatic events that can trigger PTSD, such as accidents, assaults, or seeing someone killed. However, there are also cases when the event wasn’t that severe.
PTSD can affect anyone, regardless of age, but certain categories of people are more prone to developing it. Risk factors include:
First of all, it’s important to point out that feeling upset or distressed is a completely normal reaction after a traumatic event. What happened might have affected your life and values going forward, and you should allow yourself enough time to process what happened. However, if stress persists for more than a few months, that may indicate PTSD.
Signs and symptoms include:
At the same time, PTSD can also induce feelings of guilt and shame. For example, many people who were involved in terrorist attacks or natural disasters often develop survivor’s guilt, where they blame themselves for what happened. People who have PTSD can also feel alone and isolated. If you have been struggling with PTSD for a long time, you may feel that no one understands you or that you can’t trust anyone. Moreover, you may feel that your general wellness level has decreased, that you find it difficult to look after yourself, make decisions, and enjoy daily life.
What makes PTSD harder to spot without professional help is that symptoms don’t always appear soon after the traumatic event. Many people are under the impression that they feel fine – or at least, that they have a good handle on things given the situation – only to experience anxiety symptoms after a few months. On average, PTSD symptoms appear three months after the traumatic event, but that’s not always the case. For example, there’s Delayed-Onset PTSD, where symptoms can appear six months after the event or later.
Childhood trauma can also be particularly tricky to spot because it can leak into adulthood without you recognising it, and causing symptoms such as heightened anxiety, emotional detachment, anger, shame, and guilt. PTSD in children is also more complicated because the trauma may not always be caused by one traumatic event, but also by a longer period of emotional abuse, neglect, or bullying.
It is entirely possible to experience a scary, traumatic event and be able to overcome it on your own. However, this doesn’t always happen, and when the symptoms persist for more than a few months, therapy for PTSD can help you manage these symptoms, develop healthy ways to cope, and regain control over your life.
Therapy won’t erase all memories of the event or make it seem pleasant, but it will help you to cope with it in a healthy way, so that the memory of it doesn’t become debilitating. Therapy for PTSD can cover various approaches:
Oftentimes, people who have PTSD also struggle with additional mental health issues such as depression, low self-esteem, panic attacks, and addiction, so therapy for PTSD can involve a broader approach that covers these issues too.