Associated Problems

People with PTSD often experience feelings of panic or extreme fear, which may resemble those felt during the trauma. Depression is often an additional problem. Lowered mood can occur from living with the symptoms of PTSD or the nature of the trauma itself. It is not uncommon for PTSD sufferers to engage in potentially harmful habits and behaviours to cope with their experiences.Thus, they may abuse alcohol or other drugs in an attempt to block out memories and to cope with the unpleasant feelings.

Summary
The risk of exposure to trauma in an individual’s lifetime is considerable and it is now accepted that trauma reactions are far more common than once thought.While most people recover from trauma with the help of caring family members and friends, some will go on to develop more serious problems such as PTSD. Untreated, PTSD can become a chronic, disabling disorder.Thus, diagnosis and effective treatment should be sought at the earliest opportunity.Without treatment, individuals run the risk of symptoms becoming more chronic in nature, resulting in damage to work performance and relationships.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
GENERAL INFORMATION

The Nature of PTSD
No 1 in the PTSD series of Australian Centre brochures

Course of the Disorder
Some symptoms of PTSD can be seen as part of a normal human response to an overwhelming experience. In time, these symptoms disappear in the majority of people. In some people however, they are more severe and may warrant a full diagnosis of PTSD.Without treatment in such cases, the symptoms of PTSD may persist for many years. It is not uncommon for symptoms to vary in their intensity over time. In rare cases, they may not appear for some months, or even years, after the trauma. Where symptoms are severe, or last for a long time, the person should be seen by an experienced mental health clinician.

To find out more about PTSD, other veteran and military mental health issues or the Australian Centre, please contact us at: AUSTRALIAN CENTRE FOR POSTTRAUMATIC MENTAL HEALTH (INC.) A&RMC, 300 Waterdale Road, Heidelberg Heights 3081 AUSTRALIA. Telephone: (03) 9496 2922 Facsimile: (03) 9496 2830 Email: acpmh-info@unimelb.edu.au WebSite: www.acpmh.unimelb.edu.au

What is PTSD?

The Symptoms of PTSD
PTSD comprises three main groups of problems; they can be categorised under the headings of intrusive, avoidance and arousal symptoms.

In severe cases, the person may become “numb”, withdrawing into themselves in an attempt to shut out the painful memories and feelings.
Individuals with PTSD often feel incapable of responding appropriately to others.They may report being unable to feel emotions, even toward those to whom they are closest. This emotional avoidance and numbing inevitably affects relationships. It may cause the individual to withdraw from family or friends and makes it difficult for them to engage in a normal life. Often family members may feel rejected by a PTSD sufferer who is unable to show appropriate affection and emotion.

P

STRESS DISORDER (PTSD) is a serious psychological reaction that develops in some people following experience of overwhelmingly frightening or traumatic events.
OSTTRAUMATIC

It can result from many types of trauma, especially those which threaten life and those of human design. Such events include, but are not limited to, combat, assault, sexual assault, natural disaster, accidents and torture. In one form or another, it has been known since ancient times and descriptions of PTSD-like reactions can be found in early Greek and Roman writings. More recently, it has been called by other names, such as shell shock, battle fatigue, accident neurosis and rape trauma syndrome. PTSD can affect people of any age, culture or gender. Most people who experience trauma will have some kind of psychological reaction - this is part of a normal human reaction to overwhelming experiences. Feelings of fear, sadness, guilt and anger are common. However, most survivors recover in time and only a small proportion will go on to develop the serious, long-term problems that are characteristic of PTSD.

I N T R U S I V E S Y M P TO M S Memories and images of the traumatic events may “intrude” into the lives of individuals with PTSD. This can happen in vivid daytime memories, as well as in dreams and “flashback” experiences. For people with PTSD, it may seem as though the present has become dominated by the past.
These intrusive memories occur suddenly and without obvious cause.They are often accompanied by intense emotions, such as grief, guilt, fear or anger. Sometimes they can be so vivid that the individual believes the trauma is re-occurring. In traumatised children, this reliving of trauma often occurs as repetitive play in which the event is re-enacted. In young children, distressing dreams of the traumatic event may evolve into general nightmares of monsters or threats to themselves or family members.

A RO U S A L S Y M P TO M S Severe trauma can cause individuals to feel at risk of further traumatisation.This sense of vulnerability can leave them feeling “jumpy” and constantly on guard. People with PTSD often report exaggerated startle reactions and extreme watchfulness. Sleep may become difficult and disturbed.They may feel irritable and angry with themselves, others around them and the world in general.
Individuals with PTSD often report concentration and memory problems.This, along with the other symptoms associated with PTSD, may cause sufferers to develop problems at work and impair relationships with family and friends.

AVO I DA N C E S Y M P T O M S Traumatic memories are very unpleasant.Thus, traumatised individuals may avoid situations, people or events which remind them of the event.