Cause, symptoms, and the cure
We all go through difficult circumstances. We all live through stress. And we all face tragedies at some point in our lives. Some people face tragedies that are worse than others. This is the cause of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) all Canadians are indirectly affected by mental illness but “20% of all Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime”. One of the most common is PTSD.
For a high school teenager who was an elementary school honour student, the first time she sees 50% on a paper can be stressful and horrifying, maybe even traumatic depending on how much the student values grades. But it’s an event that people often get over. There are other teenagers who are mugged while walking home from a friend’s house or end up being in a car crash that almost takes their lives. It’s something like this that triggers PTSD.
Signs for PTSD usually appear within the 3 months of the traumatic event but may surface many years later. They may appear 1 or 2 years after the incident but in others they may appear 10 or 20 years after the incident. What are these symptoms?
The first is the re-experiencing of the event – the person sees the car crash in recurrent nightmares, memories, and flashbacks, and can’t escape.
The second sign: avoidance and emotional numbing. Soon after an event, someone with PTSD withdraws from family and friends, loses interest in activities they may have enjoyed, and has difficulty feeling emotions, particularly intimacy.
Third sign: change in sleeping patterns. PTSD leads to insomnia, increased alertness and increased aggression.
PTSD doesn’t walk alone. Someone with PTSD may develop a dependence on drugs and alcohol, or other anxiety disorders. PTSD patients may also enter depression leading to suicidal thoughts and attempts. There is help.
There’s medication to treat people deal with the anxiety and depression they feel as part of PTSD and in turn develop a regular sleep pattern. Highly recommended is group and/or individual therapy to confront the trauma and relieve the patient of stress.
The hardest part about finding help for PTSD or any mental disorder is stepping out and asking for it; if you see these symptoms in yourself or you think you know someone who has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or another mental health illness talk to your family doctor and get guidance about the next step.