What Is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD)?

Posttraumatic stress disorder (or PTSD) is a common reaction to very stressful or traumatic events. Many different kinds of events can lead to PTSD, including:

being in a car, plane or train accident etc.

being raped or being the victim of another crime

being physically or sexually abused

living through a natural disaster such as a flood or an earthquake

living through man-made disaster such as bombing

seeing someone else die or being severly injured

People with PTSD have three main types of problems or symptoms:

1.Reliving the trauma. This can include memories that seem out of control, nightmares, and flashbacks that make people feel as if they are living the event all over again. Memories often come back when something people see or hear reminds them of the event.

2.Avoiding. Because it is upsetting to remember what happened, people with PTSD try not to think about it. They also stay away from people, places, or things that bring back memories.

3.Feeling like they 'have lost their old personality'. Often people with PTSD also feel numb inside and/or detached from other people and hopeless about the future.

4.Physical signs of stress. These can include trouble sleeping, feeling irritable or angry all the time, trouble concentrating, and feeling tense or on guard.

When people live through a trauma, the memories of what happened get connected in their minds with what they saw, heard, smelt, or felt at the time. Due to the high levels of stress hormones at the time of the traumatic incident the memories do not get stored  in the usual way. This means that a similar sight, sound, smell, or other feeling can bring the memories and emotions flooding back. It also means that usually some details of the trauma intrude frequently as memories and nightmares while other aspects of the incident can hardly be remembered at all.

A big personal challenge to people after a trauma is also to make sense of what happened. Traumatic events often make people question things they once believed—for example, that the world is safe, that people are trustworthy,that bad things won’t happen to them or that that theit religious belief assumes a fair and benevolent God. To understand the trauma, they have to think about it. But thinking about it brings the memories and feelings back. So they try not to think about it. Instead of finding understanding and placing the trauma in the overall context of their lives people often end up going back and forth between remembering and trying to forget. This can even lead to an increased use of alcohol or drugs 'just to forget'.

Avoiding activities, places and people that remind them of the trauma is an understanable reaction but means a restriction in theit level of pleasureable and rewarding activities and contributes both to the intrusion of memories and additional depressive symtoms.

Most people begin to have symptoms oftraumatic stress shortly after the trauma. For about half of these people, the symptoms get better on their own within 3 months. For others, the symptoms can last for years. Some people don’t start to have symptoms until many years after the event.


Both trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and EMDR (eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing) have been shown effective in research. Hypnotherapy has been one of the fisrt psychological treatments used in traumatic stress (for example for soldiers in wars trauma). These treatments can be combined or used individually.

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