Post Traumatic Stress
When something serious or traumatic happens, such as a car accident or being attacked, strange and unpleasant symptoms can occur afterwards. These symptoms can effect your ability to lead your life as you would wish. However it is natural and unsurprising that when something traumatic happens we have strong reactions.
Not everyone will develop PTS following a traumatic event, but most people will be affected to some degree. Some survivors may become unable to experience emotions and will not notice symptoms until much later. This is known as a delayed reaction, often triggered by a relatively minor event.
Re-experiencing the event
- Intrusive thoughts and images
- Intense distress at real or symbolic reminders of the trauma
- Flashbacks - you feel as though the traumatic event is happening again now.
- Keeping busy
- Avoiding situations that remind you of the trauma
- Amnesia - you may be unable to recall some aspect of the trauma
- Inability to express feelings of any kind
- Feeling detached, cut off and unable to experience emotions
- Feeling that there's no point in planning for the future
- Sleep disturbance
- Irritability and aggression
- Inability to concentrate
- Extreme alertness
- Physical panic responses to anything related to the trauma
- Being easily startled
These are regarded as normal symptoms and many people do come to terms with a traumatic experience within a matter of months.
Everyone is an individual. Some people may not wish to talk about the traumatic event and this needs to be respected. Others, however, will turn to family, friends and colleagues to talk about their feelings and receive support. It is important that everyone should have the opportunity to express their distress when they wish to do so. Stress responses which are bottled up may become deeply ingrained, leading to other problems, such as substance misuse, to block out painful memories.
Talking to a Counsellor
If it is difficult talking to your friends or family, and they may think you should have 'got over it' by now, it may be time to approach a counsellor. The counsellor will accept all of your thoughts and feelings and give you the opportunity to explore what happened and the effects on you now.
If severe symptoms persist it may be useful to discuss this with your doctor who may prescribe some medication to help you.
For Family and Friends
What you can do to help
- Allow the person to be upset without necessarily consoling them.
- Encourage them to talk about what happened.
- Encourage normality, eating proper meals etc.
- 'Be there' for them.
- Accept that they may be acting differently from usual, e.g. being withdrawn, or having angry outbursts.
- University of Cambridge Counselling Service Leaflet
- Royal College of Psychiatrists Leaflet
- Mind Leaflet
Contact numbers and addresses
MIND in Bradford
Telephone: 01274 730815
Leeds Traumatic Stress Clinic
Morley Health Centre
Tel: 0113 2954618