Could it be post traumatic stress disorder?

Post traumatic stress often goes undetected. Why is this when the symptoms are wide ranging and long lasting, affecting how you experience yourself, how you relate to others and how you interact with the outside world?

Experiencing or witnessing traumatic events such as sexual, physical and psychological abuse, natural disasters, accidents and war can cause highly distressing psychological reactions. The fear and helplessness that is felt at the time of the trauma can continue to be felt long after the trauma has ended. When trauma is prolonged and repeated many will develop post traumatic stress disorder.

If you believe you are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress contact Talking Therapy for further advice or consultation.

Signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Fall Into Three Main Areas:

  • Intrusion –The traumatic events are re-experienced by way of images, nightmares, thoughts and flashbacks. These are often accompanied by intense feelings and bodily sensations and you may feel like you are reliving the events.
  • Avoidance – You may try to avoid reminders of the trauma – people, places, thoughts, feelings, activities etc. There is often a numbing of parts of the self, so you are unable to feel love or enjoyment in life, and may feel separate and disconnected from others and events going on around you.
  • Hyperarousal – It is common to feel jumpy, watchful, easily startled and quick to feel anger. You may feel like you live in constant expectation of danger. This can lead to sleep and concentration problems.

Undiagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Those experiencing post traumatic symptoms have often been treated by health professionals for a variety of individual issues, without either party realizing these issues are part of an overriding syndrome of reaction to trauma. For example, over time a survivor may go to a G.P. for help with sleep problems, depression, panic attacks, headaches etc.

There Are Many Reasons Why Post Traumatic Stress Can Go Undetected

  • Talking about the events is avoided because it increases the intensity of feelings, memories etc
  • Survivors are often reluctant to talk about what they are experiencing because of fears of how they will be perceived and what sort of response they will get
  • There may be fears of going crazy
  • It can be difficult to describe what goes on inside
  • Often the survivor does not recognize patterns and repeated behaviours
  • There may be denial that the trauma had any impact
  • There may be feelings of shame, self-blame and guilt
  • Some survivors seek help for related symptoms without disclosing or being questioned about traumatic experiences

Trauma in Childhood Can Have Long Lasting Effects

Repetitive and prolonged trauma in childhood causes developmental changes and delays, and complex problems with almost every aspect of functioning. As adults, survivors are often faced with dealing with behaviours and ways of being in the world that they created as children in order to survive.Some of these behaviours may be: isolating oneself, avoiding emotional closeness to others, putting other people’s needs and desires first, anything that leads to numbing of feelings, and many more. These adaptations have been necessary in childhood, however, they often cause problems in adult life.

Survivors dealing with the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder are at risk of developing other mental health issues including depression, suicidality, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug problems, eating disorders and others. Over time they are seen repeatedly in mental health settings, including emergency services.

Survivors of abuse in childhood develop “problems with relationships and identity” and “are particularly vulnerable to repeated harm, both self-inflicted and at the hands of others” (Herman 1992)

Psychotherapy and Recovery

Treatment requires strengthening of the self within a safe environment,  enabling the trauma to be explored and integrated. A period of reconnection with everyday life follows. The therapeutic relationship is a key part of the recovery process. It takes time to develop into one of sufficient trust to enable safe processing of the trauma. (See article on this site “Understanding Attachment”)

The distinctive features of psychodynamic psychotherapy, and in particular the Conversational Model, fit well with the stages of trauma work and the resolution of post traumatic stress symptoms. (See article on this site “Benefits of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy”)

The Conversational Model is a trauma integration model that uses language as a major tool to locate, explore and transform trauma. This model is designed to be shaped to the needs and particular post traumatic stress symptoms of each client.

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