What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Psychological trauma is the emotional and cognitive reaction to deeply distressing events. It has been studied and treated since late XIX century, and today, this condition is known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Standalone traumatic events can be recognised (e.g. war, assault, natural disaster or a life-threatening illness). However trauma can also stem from continual emotional, sexual or physical abuse that are part of the person’s everyday life. Such trauma is usually identified later in life, when the survivor seeks help to treat the enduring mental scars.
The traumatic experience, whether one-off or continual, leaves the survivor feeling overwhelming anger or helplessness that is almost impossible to process. Anxiety, panic attacks and depression persist long after the events, and it is not unusual to turn to alcohol or drugs in an attempt to cope. In trying to manage these intense feelings, the individual becomes detached, withdrawn and emotionally numb.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
Insomnia resulting from excessive anxiety, fear, depression and total or partial amnesia of the traumatic events are very common. This results in a certain level of impairment of cognitive functions. People sometimes seem to be confused and have difficulty concentrating. The symptoms usually manifest soon after the events, but in some cases they can take weeks to emerge slowly in a pervasive way.
Patients report having good days when the symptoms almost disappear and bad days when all of a sudden they return, stopping them from living a normal life. Over time, a mixture of despair, anger and hopelessness leaves scars in people. They suffer intense mood swings, feel sad, hopeless, become irritable and have bouts of fear and/or anger. Depending on the predominant symptoms identified during the first psychiatric assessment, patients can be diagnosed with borderline personalities, bipolar disorders, alcohol or drug misuse disorders, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
How do we treat PTSD?
PTSD is one of the most incapacitating anxiety disorders and is not suitable for a single line of treatment. Sometimes anxiety or depression can be the main reason people seek treatment. We have seen many patients treated for alcohol or drug dependence when the underlying condition was PTSD. In those cases, removing the addiction could result in severe depression or anxiety, because it was the only defence they could put up to control the overwhelming feelings which are very difficult to express in words.
There is a variety of therapeutic interventions to help people with PTSD. Individual and/or family therapy are the foundations of any therapeutic approach. Most patients also need medication to help them sleep and control their anxiety or depression. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been proven beneficial for minor symptoms of PTSD. Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) is a new neuropsychological technique that is known to benefit patients as well.
At The OAD Clinic we offer bespoke treatment programmes for treating PTSD. Contact us today to get the help you need.