I feel like this is still very much a taboo subject. Something no one dare talk about, yet it’s a real everyday problem that’s not just confined to the battlefield.
I have to admit, until this was put to me as a diagnosis (which came as a great shock) I knew very little about PTSD and thought it only happened to soldiers in war zones. In reality though, it can affect anyone.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, or rape or who have been threatened with death, sexual violence or serious injury.American Psychiatric Association
For me, it is related to my multiple traumatic visits to hospital: the real serious threat of death or not surviving my next emergency surgery and witnessing multiple other deaths in close proximity to me while in HDU (high dependency unit) in Dunedin hospital.
How does PTSD present itself?
- Involuntary memories. Flashbacks to some of the many traumatic events that happened to me – sometimes also dreams related to these events.
- Avoidance. Avoiding certain memories, places, events. Avoiding thinking about them or talking about them. Always feeling like you have to be busy, feeling emotionally numb or detached, unable to express affection.
- Alterations in cognition. Negative thoughts leading to distorted self beliefs about yourself or others. Distorted thoughts about the cause of the event leading to wrongly blaming either yourself or others. Ongoing fear, horror, guilt, shame. much less interest in activities previously enjoyed. Detachment (or feeling of) from others. Feeling like you can’t trust anyone, nowhere is safe, overhearing feelings of anger, sadness, guilt or shame.
- Alterations in arousal or activity. This may include irritability, angry outbursts, panic, behaving in a self destructive way, overly watchful of your surroundings in a suspecting way, being easily startled or upset, having problems concentrating on everyday tasks or problems sleeping.
Other effects of PTSD
If you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD, you might also find that you have difficulty with some everyday aspects of your life, such as:
- looking after yourself
- holding down a job
- maintaining friendships or relationships
- remembering things and making decisions
- your sex drive
- coping with change
- simply enjoying your leisure time.
Is PTSD curable?
No. This is the part I’m struggling most with. However with effective treatment the symptoms can be managed. There is still the risk of flare ups – this can be occasional, frequent, mild, severe, even life long. The key for PTSD sufferers seems to be the effective management of the condition.