Post Traumatic Stress Disorder refers to psychological distress that is caused by a traumatic event. If that event caused severe distress over a long period then some people will be labelled as having a disorder. Most people experience traumatic life threatening events in their lives, and most people recover with support. The types of events that can commonly cause PTSD include assault, natural disasters, witnessing or being involved in an accident, death or serious injury.
Often individuals with PTSD will experience anxiety and depression. The anxiety is often related to triggers that remind them of the traumatic event. Australia has released treatment guidelines for PTSD. Most individuals need support from those close to them during the weeks after a traumatic event, and most recover from the experience and return to their work as usual. Some individuals don’t recover as easily and after some weeks are still unable to sleep, have flashbacks/nightmares, experience a pounding heart, feel disconnected from their family and friends, and have trouble going near the place where the traumatic event occurred. If an individual is visibly distressed some weeks after the event, then seeking professional counselling support is important.
Therapy for trauma has been found to be very effective. Counselling for trauma usually involves:
- Emotional support for current distress
- Problem solving around immediate issues like returning to work, childcare or other social roles
- Self care by eating healthy, exercise in moderation, improving sleep habits
- Talking through the traumatic events as it happened
- Labelling emotions that are caused by the event; fear, guilt, anger, grief, etc
- Education around why the events were traumatic
- Talking about how your personal views of the world were changed by the trauma
- Learning about anxiety and depressive symptoms
- Coping in more effective ways
- Improving social support and learning to ask for support from others
One of the most important parts of counselling for trauma is feeling understood and accepted by your counsellor. If you feel confident to talk about the event and that your counsellor is on the same page as you, then this very important. Talking about the traumatic helps to process the event and it is important to understand why the traumatic events affected you deeply. Sometimes traumatic events occur and individuals feel that others were helping them and they really believed it would be ok in the end. For those individuals it is easier to recover and often they can talk to their friends or family about what happened.
Author: Vivian Jarrett, B Psych (hons), AMAPS, MAICD.
To make an appointment with a one of our Brisbane Psychologists, freecall 1800 877 924 today!