According to the National Institute of Medical Health, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. Dr Eugene Allers, a leading South African psychiatrist and former President of the South African Society of Psychiatrists (SASOP), believes that when crime and motor-vehicle accidents are taken into account, up to 6 million South Africans could be suffering from PTSD.
Who develops PTSD?
Most people who experience a dramatic event will not develop PTSD but risk factors for PTSD include:
- Living through dangerous events or traumas
- Getting injured
- Seeing a person injure another person, or a dead body
- Childhood trauma
- Feeling horror, helplessness, or extreme fear
- Having little or no social support after the event
- Having to deal with extra stress such as loss of a loved one, loss of a job, pain or injury
- A history of mental illness or substance abuse.
With more research, one day it may be possible to predict who is likely to develop PTSD.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
The symptoms can be complex as they can be categorised into re-experiencing symptoms, avoidance symptoms, arousal and reactivity symptoms, and cognition and mood symptoms. However, if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms it is best to visit your GP who can refer you to a specialist:
- Upsetting or frightening thoughts, memories or dreams of an event
- Behaving or sensing that the event is unfolding again
- Becoming upset by reminders of the event
- Bodily reactions such as fast heartbeat, stomach churning, sweatiness or dizziness when reminded of the event
- Difficulty in staying or falling asleep
- Irritability or outbursts of anger
- Difficulty concentrating
- Heightened awareness of potential dangers to yourself and others
- Being jumpy, jittery or startled at something unexpected.
What are the treatments and therapies?
Treatment for PTSD sufferers consists mostly of medication and psychotherapy, or both. Everyone is different and PTSD affects people differently so what works for one might not be appropriate for another. It is however important to see a professional medical health provider with experience in treating PTSD.