What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events. PTSD can develop soon after someone experiences a disturbing event or it can occur weeks, months or even years later. PTSD is estimated to affect about 1 in every 3 people who have a traumatic experience, but it's not clear exactly why some people develop the condition and others don't. War Veterans are at particularly at risk of developing PTSD due to the experiences they encounter.
Someone with PTSD will often relive the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt.
They may also have problems sleeping, such as insomnia, and find concentrating difficult. These symptoms are often severe and persistent enough to have a significant impact on the person's day-to-day life. Symptoms can develop a month or so after a traumatic event or it may take years before symptoms start to appear. According to the charity Combat Stress the average amount of time between a traumatic event and seeking medical help is 14 years.
The specific symptoms of PTSD can vary widely between individuals, but they generally fall into the categories described below.
Re-experiencing is the most typical symptom of PTSD. This is when a person involuntarily and vividly re-lives the traumatic event in the form of flashbacks, nightmares or repetitive and distressing images or sensations. This can even include physical sensations such as pain, sweating and trembling.
Some people will have constant negative thoughts about their experience, repeatedly asking themselves questions that prevent them from coming to terms with the event. For example, they may wonder why the event happened to them and if they could have done anything to stop it, which can lead to feelings of guilt or shame.
Avoidance and emotional numbing
Trying to avoid being reminded of the traumatic event is another key symptom of PTSD. This usually means avoiding certain people or places that remind you of the trauma, or avoiding talking to anyone about your experience.
Many people with PTSD will try to push memories of the event out of their mind, often distracting themselves with work or hobbies.
Some people attempt to deal with their feelings by trying not to feel anything at all. This is known as emotional numbing. This can lead to the person becoming isolated and withdrawn, and they may also give up pursuing the activities that they used to enjoy.
Someone with PTSD may be very anxious and find it difficult to relax. They may be constantly aware of threats and easily startled. This state of mind is known as hyperarousal.
Hyperarousal often leads to irritability, angry outbursts, sleeping problems (insomnia) and difficulty concentrating.
Many people with PTSD also have a number of other problems. It is common to be diagnosed with depression, anxiety and experience phobias first without PTSD being considered but they are as a result of PTSD. Alcohol or drug misuse can go hand in hand with PTSD as a means of emotional numbing.
It is common to have headaches or cluster migraines or to experience dizziness. Chest pains and stomach aches and problems are also common, often being diagnosed first before considering PTSD. PTSD sometimes leads to work-related problems and the breakdown of relationships.
People react to traumatic events in different ways. If you or someone you know experience a number of the symptoms below we would urge you to seek professional medical advice. Alternatively you can contact us and we will try to help in any way we can.
- Feeling isolated
- Frequent periods of withdrawal into oneself
- Anger or aggressive behaviour
- Feeling distrustful and suspicious/blaming others
- Misuse of alcohol/drugs/gambling and/or food
- Seeking out high-risk/dangerous pursuits
- Work-related or relationship problems
- Feeling numb and empty
- Feeling suicidal
- Self harm and self-destructive tendencies
- Being easily moved to tears
- Avoidance of people and places
Professional medical help should in the first instance be sought from your GP. Other charities such as Combat Stress offer in house medical treatment.
If you are looking for alternative ways to deal with PTSD if everything else has failed, we offer beekeeping based methods. Please read more under how does beekeeping help PTSD?