What is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) counselling?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was first used as a diagnosis by veterans from the Vietnam War, but such symptoms have existed for much longer. The disorder has had many names, including:
- battle fatigue
- combat stress
- shell shock
- post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSS).
Post-traumatic stress disorder isn’t only associated with war-related scenarios however. Traumatic events such as natural disasters, abuse and accidents can also cause symptoms.
It is understandable for people to feel distressed and upset after a traumatic event. For many, these feelings gradually subside and they are able to carry on with their lives as normal. For others however, distress and anxiety following a trauma may be ongoing. It can be so severe that their everyday lives and ability to live normally suffer.
This page will explore the disorder in more detail, looking into the symptoms, causes, and types of PTSD treatment. This includes counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for PTSD.
What is post-traumatic stress disorder?
Post-traumatic stress disorder develops after experiencing, or witnessing, a traumatic event. Typically, people in danger feel afraid. When this fear hits, the ‘fight or flight’ response is triggered. But for people with PTSD, this type of reaction is damaged. They may feel frightened or stressed even if they are no longer in danger.
The threat of physical harm, or physical harm itself can cause post-traumatic stress disorder.
To develop the condition, you could be:
- the person who was harmed
- a close relation of the person that was harmed
- someone who witnessed a traumatic event that affected others.
You may even develop the disorder years after the event – there isn’t a time limit on distress.
If you have PTSD, you may relive the traumatic event through flashbacks and nightmares. You also may feel isolated, guilty and sometimes irritable. Sleeping problems such as insomnia are also common. Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms are persistent and severe enough to impact your daily life.
Seeking help for PTSD
As post-traumatic stress disorder is so complex, many who have it live their life undiagnosed, missing out on treatment. Some may feel uncomfortable talking about their feelings with others and do not want to admit they are struggling to cope after the trauma. There might be a fear of being perceived as emotionally unstable, or even weak. If this is so, their loved ones are usually kept in the dark in such matters.
If you are worried that you are showing signs of PTSD and feel uncomfortable speaking with your family about it, making an appointment with your GP should be your next step. They can help go through your symptoms and will be able to refer you to a mental health specialist for an assessment.
If you are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder you will be given access to specialised PTSD treatment. Such treatment including counselling for PTSD, can offer a private and confidential space to talk about your symptoms and feelings surrounding the trauma and condition.
If you feel you are ready to speak to someone, try using our advanced search tool to find a counsellor or psychotherapist near you who specialises in post-traumatic stress disorder. Speaking to someone who understands the condition can really help.
Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms will vary from person to person. They tend to fall in three categories of intense emotional and physical reactions.
Re-experiencing aspects of the trauma
This is the most common symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder. It can be extremely distressing for anyone who goes through it.
Many people who have PTSD will experience the following symptoms:
- vivid flashbacks
- intrusive thoughts or images
- intense distress when faced with symbolic reminders
- recurring emotional and physical sensations of what happened (i.e. pain, trembling, nausea and sweating).
Feeling on edge (hyperarousal)
If you have PTSD, you may feel anxious, constantly alert to potential danger and you may find it difficult to relax. This is your body’s survival mechanism working overtime.
Hyperarousal is characterised by the following symptoms:
- intense panic when reminded of the trauma
- being easily upset
- irritability and aggression
- self-destructive behaviour or recklessness
- inability to concentrate
- sleeping problems.
Emotional numbing and avoidance
Being reminded of the event that caused the trauma can trigger feelings of fear and anxiety. As a result of this, PTSD sufferers are more likely to avoid reminders. These include places, people or situations. Avoiding the topic of the traumatic event in conversation is also very common.
Sufferers will try to counteract the painful memories and feelings by feeling nothing at all. This emotional numbing typically has a negative effect on communication with others. Individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder are also likely to:
- feel detached and isolated
- be unable to express affection
- turn to alcohol or drugs to avoid memories
- give up on hobbies and interests previously enjoyed.
Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms can be difficult to manage. They can affect all aspects of life including health, relationships and general well-being. Many sufferers will develop physical ailments due to the high amounts of constant stress. These include stomach aches, diarrhoea, chest pains and dizziness. Other symptoms from mental health issues including anxiety, depression and phobias can also emerge.