I am suffering from PTSD and I cannot ‘just get over it’
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be a difficult subject to understand. If you have it, you have probably heard many people telling you to ‘just get over it.’ If you do not have PTSD, you probably feel that those with PTSD are exaggerating and wallowing in their negative experiences.
In this blog, we are going to breakdown what PTSD is, what you experience when you have it and how you can help people who are suffering from it.
What is it?
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that develops after a person survives frightening, stressful, or distressing events. Fear causes split-second changes in the body to help you react. Commonly known as fight/flight response, but recently expanded to fight/flight/freeze responses. Fight is the body giving signals to defend against danger or threat. Flight, is to run, to try to avoid the threat(s). Freeze is a third common response where due to shock a person is unable to respond at all.
PTSD is a global condition, which affects people all over the world regardless of their culture and environment. In the last year, 259.2 million people suffered from PTSD, on different levels (Source: mind.org.uk).
Signs and symptoms of PTSD
Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event, some experiences, like the sudden death of a loved one can also cause symptoms of PTSD. Also not everyone who has been through a dangerous event, develops PTSD.
Symptoms often begin early, within three months of the incident, but sometimes a person can start to experience symptoms several years later.
The symptoms of PTSD can vary between the individual, below are three of the more known and common:
- Re-experiencing is the most known symptom of PTSD and occurs when a person involuntarily re-lives the traumatic experience they have been through. This can happen in the form of flashbacks, nightmares, repetitive images, and physical sensations.
- Avoidance and emotional numbing is a common symptom of PTSD, whereby individuals try to avoid being reminded of the traumatic event. This usually means they avoid people and places that remind them of the trauma and pushing memories of the event out of their mind, over focusing instead on work and hobbies to distract them. Some people try to deal with their negative feelings by trying not to feel anything at all. This is known as emotional numbing, and can lead to felling isolated and withdrawn. Furthermore, all the avoided feelings and memories then affect the person emotionally and behaviourally.
- Hyperarousal (feeling ‘on edge) often refers to someone who may be over anxious and finding it difficult to relax. Over the long-term, hyperarousal can lead to irritability, panic attacks, angry outbursts, sleeping problems and difficulty concentrating.
What can you say to help someone suffering from PTSD?
If someone you know is experiencing symptoms of PTSD, and you are unsure what you can do to help, it is important first to learn about the disorder so you can relate to what they are going through and understand what to expect.
People who suffer from PTSD feel like they have lost control. Taking an active role in their recovery can help to empower them. Talk to them, stay hopeful, and remember to listen carefully to what they have to say. This will help to build trust between you. Do not minimize their experiences or tell them or expect them to “get over it.” You can also encourage treatment, as this is extremely important in the recovery process.
When you should seek help?
It is normal to experience upsetting and confusing thoughts after a traumatic event, and for most people these will improve naturally over time. Generally you will get an acute stress reaction for a month following the event, which is appropriate and your body’s way of dealing with the incident (https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsanddisorders/posttraumaticstressdisorder.aspx)
If you are not sure when to seek help, there are a few guidelines.
If your symptoms are affecting your daily life, and the traumatic event(s) is taking over more space in your emotional and mental life, then it might be a good idea to seek help.
If you are still having issues four months after the traumatic experience, or if your symptoms are getting worse, it is possibly time to seek help.
The International Clinic in London offers a professional service where one of our specialists will work with you to find a course of action that will benefit you, whether this is through therapy or medication.
If you have experienced a traumatic event in the near or distant past, and feel you would benefit from talking to someone, call The International Clinic on 0207 467 8548 to book your consultation.