Post Traumatic Stress Disorder & Trauma (PTSD)
Experiencing or witnessing traumatic events can change a person. However in some cases it can cause lasting problems with anxiety and depression. The most common trauma related problem is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Traumatic events involve life threatening situations or serious injury that lead to feelings of intense fear, helplessness or horror. These include physical or sexual assault, natural disaster, serious injury, war or torture.
Following a traumatic event it is common to have symptoms of sadness, anger, fear and guilt. These usually occur in the first 2-3 weeks following the event. However if symptoms persist months after the event then you may be experiencing PTSD.
PTSD requires specialist intervention and this is something that the clinical psychologists and psychiatrists at Mindcare Centre are confident in delivering. If you think you may be experiencing this problem contact our office to book an appointment with one our clinicians. It is also helpful to talk to your GP for advice and support. Additionally an appropriate referral from your GP will enable you to claim a Medicare rebate.
Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Intrusive memories: this may be in the form of a visual flashback, a physiological flashback or nightmares. The main feature of these symptoms is a sense of the trauma being relived.
- Hyperarousal/high anxiety: this is a sense of feeling on edge, being agitated for no clear reason, feeling stressed and anxious, on guard for new threats and easily startled
- Avoidance: due to the experience of arousal and perhaps the nature of the trauma there are situations, places, people and circumstances that the person may attempt to avoid. They may also attempt to avoid thinking about the trauma (which is usually very difficult and effortful).
There is a possibility the symptoms will remit on their own (usually in the first one to three months of onset). After this time it is wise to get help as the symptoms are unlikely to stop without intervention. Mindcare Centre has clinical psychologists and psychiatrists who specialise in the treatment of PTSD so call or email us today to book an appointment with one of our specialists.
Why do some people develop PTSD and others do not?
Not everyone who is exposed to a trauma develops PTSD. It is not clear why some people develop PTSD and others do not. On important factor may be the way in which the trauma is encoded by the brain’s attention and memory structures at the time of the traumatic experience or shortly afterwards. Sometimes people become more traumatised by the immediate responses to the trauma than to the trauma itself (e.g. overhearing comments by paramedics or hospital staff about the severity of your condition, angry or blaming responses from family members). The interpretations you make about the trauma during and after the event can shape your response to trauma. These interpretations are fairly automatic and not always accurate given that they occur during a time of high stress and shock. Avoidance of thinking about the event then interferes with the development of more realistic interpretations. An important component of treatment is to review and challenge your interpretations about the trauma so as to lessen its impact. No-one asks to develop PTSD and you are not at fault. Self-blame will not help you. Your job is to work on your recovery.
Side effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
There are common problems that can develop secondary to PTSD:
- Misuse of alcohol or other illicit substances can easily occur as a means of self medicating and coping with the extreme anxiety and the intrusive memories.
- Depression is common due to the difficulty of dealing with persistent anxiety and a sense of loss that often accompanies the trauma whether it be loss of your sense of security, loss of mobility, loss of loved ones, loss of a planned career path or just loss of enjoyment in life due to anxiety-related avoidance behaviours.
How is PTSD treated?
There are a number of effective treatments for Post Traumatic Stress:
- Imaginal Exposure and Desensitisation is an effective evidence-based form of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) for PTSD. This treatment involves learning some relaxing grounding strategies to manage extreme anxiety then using memory rescripting to update and deactivate the trauma memory. The focus then moves to regaining meaningful life activities and developing a focus on the present and the future not the past. This process typically requires about 8 to 20 sessions although many more sessions may be required if there are multiple traumas over a lifetime.
- Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) has also been proven effective and is a different type of psychological treatment to CBT. This form of treatment may be a good alternative for people who cannot bring themselves to talk about their traumatic experience.
- Medication can be helpful for reducing anxiety levels and improving mood especially when there is comorbid depression. Medication can only be prescribed by a medical practitioner such as a psychiatrist or GP. A clinical psychologist cannot prescribe medication.
How to Get Help for an adult with PTSD
The clinical psychologists and psychiatrists at Mindcare Centre have the necessary skills to help identify whether you are experiencing PTSD and to provide evidence based treatment for all degrees of severity.
Call our helpful reception staff during business hours on 02 9212 4445 or email us now to book an assessment with one of our PTSD and trauma experts.
Medicare rebates are available for all our psychologists and psychiatrists so please discuss this with your GP and ask for a referral. Our reception staff can explain the process of referral with you over the phone or via email so please feel free to contact us for more details. Appointments with our clinical psychologists can still be made without a referral although no Medicare rebate can be claimed. Your private health insurance policy might provide a small rebate for a limited number of sessions. Please be advised that only some of our clinicians will accept Workers Compensation or Motor Accidents Authority Referrals. Our reception staff can advise you as to which of our clinicians take part in these schemes.