PTSD is often associated with soldiers returning from conflict, but PTSD can equally affect anybody (children or adults) who has been exposed to an traumatic event or situation. A traumatic event is usually an event that overwhelmingly threatens one's sense of safety, stability or sense of self. However, trauma can also be cumulative, i.e. a repeated number of many lesser traumatic events. Symptoms of PTSD may develop in the hours or days following the traumatic experience, but it may take weeks, months, or even years before they become apparent. In the case of young children, symptoms may occur even if the traumatic event is no longer in conscious memory.
Individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress often find themselves ‘reliving’ the stressful experience through flashbacks (intrusive, vivid memories) or nightmares. Furthermore, sufferers may find that they have a sense of emotional numbness or detachment from people or current situations. Sufferers often seek to avoid situations or activities that either remind them of the traumatic experience, or that might illicit similar emotions (however vague). Taking pleasure in normally enjoyable activities might seem impossible. Depression and anxiety are commonly associated with PTSD.
In addition, ‘hypervigilance’ is often associated with PTSD – where an individual is unusually sensitive to the potential threats or uncertainties of their surroundings. Consequently, anger outbursts/irritability and sleeping difficulties are common. In children, behavioural difficulties are common following a traumatic event.
Who Might be Affected by PSTD?
PTSD can affect those who personally experience the traumatic event/situation, but it can also affect those who witness it or those who are involved in the aftermath e.g. emergency workers, family members. What is traumatic is personal- a particular event may relatively innocuous for one person, whilst highly traumatising for another.
Traumatic events that can lead to PTSD include:
- Car accidents
- The death of a loved one
- Rape/sexual assault
- Physical assault
- Sexual or physical abuse
- Childhood neglect
- Natural disasters
- Terrorist incidents
PTSD is not an illness. The human brain is simply not designed to routinely cope with such extreme stresses, and as such it becomes overwhelmed with ‘information’ that it cannot easily make sense of (process). Hypervigilance, anger/aggression, emotional detachment, inability to concentrate, difficulty sleeping, feeling jumpy, depression/anxiety etc. are all signs that that the brain has become overwhelmed. As such it needs help to process traumatic events.
At Purple House, we are experienced at treating trauma. Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is the most commonly used approach, although other therapies may also be integrated into therapy, including Cognitive behavioural Therapy (CBT), Schema Therapy and Creative Therapies. For children who have experienced repeated losses and trauma in their family life, Attachment Focused Therapy (AFT) may be more appropriate (also see attachment difficulties). An initial consultation will be required to discuss the most appropriate form(s) of therapy for each individual.
Please contact us for further information.