Sheethal Behari
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By Sheethal Behari, Clinical Psychologist

The festive season has come and gone. For many it is a time for being with family and friends, for winding down from a year of work and stress, for relaxing and enjoying everyday pleasures.

However for some the festive season can bring sadness and tragedy. With the increase in people traveling over the holidays many families experience accidents, and the loss of life of loved ones. Others experience traumas like robberies, hijackings or accidents/violence at home. With the experiencing of these traumas psychological issues like depression, anxiety, bereavement and post traumatic stress disorder can develop. If left untreated these issues can become pathological and impact every area of your life and your functioning.

Immediately following a trauma post traumatic stress symptoms usually develop. If left untreated, this can become a disorder.

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur after experiencing or witnessing an extremely stressful event. The person who develops PTSD may be the one who was harmed or threatened to be harmed, the harm may have happened to a loved one or they may have witnessed someone being harmed.

What are the Symptoms of PTSD?

PSTD can manifest in many symptoms. They are organised into three categories:

  1. Re-experiencing
  2. Avoidance and
  3. Hyper-arousal

For sufferers of PTSD the trauma does not stop after the traumatic event. When they least expect it unwanted thoughts of the trauma intrudes into their everyday lives. They experience flashbacks, bad dreams and frightening thoughts. Words, objects, situations, sounds and sights are reminders of the trauma and trigger re-experiencing.

These reminders often trigger avoidance symptoms in suffers of PTSD. They change their everyday routine and behaviour to avoid anything they have associated with the trauma. E.g. after a bad motor vehicle accident a person may avoid driving, being a passenger or taking a certain route. Avoidance symptoms include feeling emotionally numb, feeling strong guilt, depression or worry, losing interest in events that were pleasurable in the past, having trouble remembering the traumatic event.

Hyperarousal symptoms usually consist of a person feeling easily startled or being on edge. Sufferers become stressed and angry. Problems sleeping and eating are common.

Children can also experience PTSD and have many of the same symptoms. They can present as regression of previously attained milestones. For e.g. Children who have been toilet trained start bed wetting, become clingy towards care-givers, become mute. They act out the trauma during play. They can become angry and disrespectful and engage in disruptive behaviour.

If you or your family have experienced a traumatic event or are experiencing any of these symptoms you do not have to suffer alone. Professionals can help alleviate and eliminate symptoms of PTSD and help the sufferer return to pre-trauma functioning. Please contact Sheethal Behari, Clinical Psychologist, at PsychMatters on (011) 4503576 or if you or your family need help. Our offices will re-open 8 January 2015.

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