PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop after experiencing, witnessing or learning about a traumatic event. While commonly associated with war, traumatic events can be anything from accidents, catastrophes/ natural disasters, violent crimes, abuse, illnesses, near-misses, and so on.
The most common effect of PTSD is vivid and repetitive flashbacks – oftentimes reminding the sufferer of the sounds, sights, smells, feelings and even tastes of the traumatic event. These detailed memories can cause distressing dreams, both during the day and at night, resulting in a massive disturbance in the quality of life. PTSD sufferers may also develop other difficulties, including substance abuse and gambling problems.
While it varies according to the individual, the following symptoms or character traits may take 6 months or more to develop following the traumatic event:
It is not uncommon for PTSD sufferers to feel personally responsible for the event that occurred; believing what happened was their fault or that they deserved it. Many may even experience survivors’ guilt, where they don’t understand why they are still here while others have passed on. Do your best to reassure them that this is not the case, using any facts or justifications you can. Whether or not the message gets through to them, it is important they receive continual reassurance.
It is also common for PTSD sufferers to develop a generalized fear for any event similar to the traumatic one experienced. For example, if they experienced abuse from a man or woman, they may now believe all men or women are dangerous. If they survived a car accident, they may now never wish to drive or be in a car again in fear of another crash. We call these triggers. While the triggers may always remain, with the support of a professional counsellor, it is possible to reduce the frequency or intensity of them. This is commonly achieved by gradually and methodically re-introducing them to these triggers. For example, if it is cars that are a trigger for them, this may start with toy cars, cars displayed on tv’s, car sounds, etc.
Do your best to be as patient as possible with those struggling with PTSD. It may take years before they are able to manage their triggers, but with the proper plan they can get there! Be sure to celebrate every milestone along the way as well - no matter how “small” it may seem.
* Please note that NO information provided by Cam’s Kids Foundation is intended or implied to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content and information is for general information purposes only. Please speak to your health care practitioner regarding any questions you may have, or to confirm a diagnosis.