Our lives can become filled with anxiety, fear, and uncertainty and with little information on where to turn, we find ourselves struggling on our own. We know that this stress can have a profound effect on our health and the lives of those around us.
In light of the times, and the tragic stories that are sure to impact us, the need for taking care of ourselves physically and mentally becomes even more paramount.
But, what is Post-traumatic Stress.
What is PTSD, and what can be done about it?
Traumatic events can bring about an extreme stress disorder. Whether it be living through an earthquake, surviving childhood abuse, witnessing violent acts of terrorism or being a first responder to an accident, all of these can bring about PTSD. Post-traumatic Stress can seemingly creep into our lives when we least expect it.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is characterized by the re-experiencing of traumatic events, increased physical symptoms, and/or by persistent avoidance of certain situations. These symptoms begin to occur at least one month after the original traumatic situation.
For example, the past events of terrorism may have brought back horrific memories for other victims of war. Those who have had to leave their home country because of persecution and violence may be re-experiencing the extreme fear and anxiety that they originally experienced, even though they are now not in danger. Individuals who work in our major cities may be feeling anxiety, and even fear when they enter their own place of work due to past terrorist events. They may find themselves having trouble sleeping, concentrating, and may be seemingly on-edge. If these feelings and symptoms worsen and persist they too may be experiencing PTSD.
This illness is not new. We use to call it ‘Shell Shock’ amoung other names. Some soldiers in past wars were diagnosed with experiencing the same symptoms of feeling detached from their lives and society, using alcohol to avoid remembering, and having nightmares so extreme that they would rather stay awake for days then fall deep into that horror.
Can PTSD be avoided?
There are strategies that can be used, but there are no guarantees. When we have lived through a traumatic event, our brain’s ability to process and recover can determine whether or not we are going to experience Post-traumatic Stress. Treatment depends on the severity and persistence of symptoms. Support, debriefing, therapy, and medications have all been shown to be effective.
We do know that having the opportunity to share your feelings and memories with others who have also experienced similar tragedies can be helpful in processing and recovering from a trauma. We are now putting this information to task as many police and fire departments have developed Critical Incidence Stress Support Teams to help their personnel sort through their difficult experiences.
In uncertain times, we need to take care of ourselves, remember the important things in life, keep our perspective, and rely on others. We must develop our supports as they can provide a protective barrier. Talk to friends and family about your fears. If they seem overwhelming contact your doctor or a counselor. Your workplace Human Resources Department or Employee Assistance Program may also be a valuable support. The Canadian Mental Health Association (www.cmha.ca) has a wide variety of pamphlets that can also be helpful to provide you with valuable information.
If you have some strategies to share – comment on this posting!