Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome describes a grouping of feelings, thoughts, behaviors and attitudes in people who have gone through a traumatic experience.
What Incidents can be Classed as Trauma
Any occurrence that produces fear and the feeling of being out of control can be classed as a trauma. Typical examples include the following:
- Natural Disasters
What are the Signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome
Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome manifests in many different ways. Here are some of the common symptoms of the condition:
- Inappropriate laughter
- Change in sleep patterns
- Drinking/taking drugs
- Spending too much
- Unable to make decisions
- Startled by loud noises
- Changes in social behavior
- Unable to concentrate
- Change in eating habits
What Factors affect a Person’s Reaction to Trauma
Everyone perceives and reacts to trauma in different ways. This is a combination of personality, whether the trauma was experienced alone or as a group, religious beliefs, and prior traumas.
Acknowledging Feelings is Important
It is important to recognize emotions and feelings that spring from the trauma. Pushing them down and repressing them will not be helpful in the long run.
The Phases of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome
A person recovering from a traumatic occurrence will often go through stages of healing. It is often a process of two steps forward and one back.
- Acute – This includes feelings of disbelief and physical effects such as crying or shaking.
- Transition – This stage can begin within days, weeks or even months of the trauma. Feelings are less intense and the person examines the trauma to see how it could have been handled differently.
- Integration – Life returns to near normal and strange thoughts and behaviours become isolated incidents.
Many people find that telling the story helps them to relieve it of its power in their lives. This can be done one on one with a caring friend or family member, or with a trained therapist or counsellor. Writing down details is also useful.
Dealing with Flashbacks and Nightmares
Immediately after the trauma, many people struggle with flashbacks where they relive the experience complete with thoughts, feelings and sensations.
Others find recurring nightmares a problem. Some find that writing down dreams and analyzing them can help bring healing and closure.
Hope for the Future
Traumatic incidents often cause people to re-evaluate their lives. Perspectives and priorities change and this may cause conflict with loved ones. Open communication is the best way to work through these issues. Never be afraid to ask for professional help.
Some people find it helpful to create artworks or a collage that depicts the trauma. Others find it helpful to return to the scene and create new memories. This can be done by leaving a cross or burning a letter there. The important thing is to actively seek healing and do whatever it takes to find it. Everyone can be helped if they are willing to work toward healing.
Healing from Post-Traumatic Stress. Monique Lang, LCSW, McGraw-Hill Books, 2007.