After a distressing experience, around 30 percent of people will develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The condition is characterised by extreme anxiety, avoiding situations or locations which remind the individual of the experience and general irritability, insomnia and lack of concentration. Many people consider the term “disorder” to be a misnomer, because it could be seen as a completely ordinary response to extreme trauma. Regardless of the specific terminology used to describe it, PTSD is a serious condition which requires counselling to fully overcome.
Many different types of events can trigger PTSD, but it’s most commonly associated with military service because of the troubling things people are exposed to. It was previously referred to as “shell-shock” for this reason. Other events can also result in PTSD, such as sexual or physical abuse, horrific car accidents, violent crime and trauma during childbirth. Not everybody who experiences these events will develop PTSD, and it’s thought to be more likely if the individual fears for their life, is conscious throughout the event, feels somehow responsible for it or if the trauma was purposefully caused by another individual.
There are numerous symptoms of PTSD, but they can generally be classified into three groups: reliving the memory, avoiding the memory or similar situations and general anxiety and irritability. Reliving experiences may involve nightmares, vivid flashbacks and re-experiencing of the event when confronted with any type of reminder. The individual’s stress will cause insomnia, increased alertness, general irritability and an inability to concentrate. Repressed memories, emotional numbness, inability to express affection, feeling that planning for the future is pointless and keeping constantly busy are ways of avoiding the memory. If you or your loved one is experiencing several of these symptoms, therapy may be required to address the issue.
PTSD symptoms can develop anytime from immediately after the event to years afterwards, and are considered a somewhat normal response. That’s why the first course of action is often a period of watchful waiting, because the problem will can clear up on its own without intervention from a counsellor. If the condition persists or gets worse after a month, then psychotherapy may be required. There are medications that can be offered, such as antidepressants to alleviate anxiety, but these are only provided when the situation is severe or when counselling is ineffective or not wanted by the patient.
The most common form of therapy used for PTSD is cognitive behavioural therapy. This type of counselling is primarily concerned with changing the individual’s thoughts and actions to facilitate better mental health. Negative thought patterns will be replaced by positive, healthier alternatives and the individual will be taught coping mechanisms to help them take control of their fear. This process usually lasts between 8 and 12 weeks, but it can vary depending on the individual’s requirements. There is also the option of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, in which the individual pictures the event whilst tracking the therapist’s finger movements with their eyes. This is thought to simulate REM (dream) sleep to help the brain process trauma and overcome it.
If you or your loved one is suffering from PTSD, psychological counselling may be necessary. Some cases can clear up by themselves, but if the situation isn’t dealt with efficiently or if the individual feels unable to address it, therapy is extremely advantageous. Medication can help manage the symptoms, but is far from a solution to the problem. A therapist will help you or your loved one address the issue safely and overcome the resulting symptoms. If you have any questions about treatment or want to learn more about your options, we are here to help you.
For more information about our costs for PTSD counselling services please see the about us page.