The truth behind PTSD

You may have heard of the term PTSD before, you may have not. Maybe, you’ve heard the term of ‘shell shock’ or ‘war neurosis’ to describe what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder since the 1980’s in the UK. As much as the disorder can affect soldiers of war, due to education within the field of mental health, it is now well-known that the disorder can affect far more people than just those on the warfront. Unfortunately in this modern day, the mental health problem has become a target of being used in casual ‘banter’ (ever heard someone say that something has given them PTSD as a joke?) and therefore diminishes its harsh affects and the struggles of those who suffer with the disorder.

So, how does it come about? As with most mental health problems, there isn’t a set boundary or checklist to confirm that you do or do not have PTSD. Each case is subjective and must be taken so; there is no right or wrong way to be diagnosed with it. According to PTSDUK, some examples of traumatic events include personal assault, bereavement, childhood neglect and prolonged bullying. Of course, there are only a few possibilities out of hundreds listed, but each has the same affect on the person for the disorder to develop. It is important to consider that the exposure to a traumatic event can happen in more than one way, and this doesn’t mean you have any less right to say you have PTSD. For instance, you could be the person to experience the traumatic event, you could have witnessed the traumatic event or someone close to you could have experienced the traumatic event which takes a knock-on effect. Another common exposure to trauma is to those who work in dangerous fields such as first responders. The most important thing to take from this is, no matter how you were exposed to the trauma, you are still valid.

PTSD isn’t something that comes and goes in waves, it is an underlying and constant condition that causes fear and helplessness when exposed to a similar situation to the trauma that first caused the disorder. Unfortunately, it is never really expected for the person to ‘be cured’ from the trauma, but for things to gradually improve through acceptance of the traumatic experience and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). From a personal perspective, dealing with the symptoms of PTSD is something that I struggled with the most. After being diagnosed with PTSD and put on medication, I was left to myself and my therapist to sift through what felt like hundreds of years of trauma. Due to the way our brains are biologically programmed, we are supposed to process memories. This becomes extremely difficult when the memories that you need to process are traumatic and triggering. It can easily become a viscous cycle which can go on for years when avoiding the memory of the trauma becomes easier than re-living it. This if often the reason why many sufferers can go years without seeking help or guidance, because avoidance is better in the short-term.

In our lives, one in two people will experience trauma. This isn’t hard to believe when trauma can be a result of anything which causes fear, helplessness and horror. Around twenty percent of those people can go on to develop PTSD. The symptoms vary from case to case, but some of the most common are flashbacks, outbursts of anger, panic attacks, muscle aches and tensions and exhaustion and even chronic pain. It isn’t hard to understand how PTSD can be debilitating. There is hope, though. PTSD can be treated at any stage; all you have to do is know that you are worthy of the help and support.

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