Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
What is it Like to Live with PTSD?
Who Can Get PTSD?
- Anyone who was a victim, witnessed or has been exposed to a life-threatening situation.
- Survivors of violent acts, such as domestic violence, rape, sexual, physical and/or verbal abuse or physical attacks.
- Survivors of unexpected dangerous events, such as a car accident, natural disaster, or terrorist attack.
- Combat veterans or civilians exposed to war.
- People who have learned of or experienced an unexpected and sudden death of a friend or relative.
- Emergency responders who help victims during traumatic events.
- Children who are neglected and/or abused (physically, sexually or verbally).
What Are the Symptoms of PTSD?
For many people, symptoms begin almost right away after the trauma happens. For others, the symptoms may not begin or may not become a problem until years later. Symptoms of PTSD may include:
- Repeatedly thinking about the trauma. You may find that thoughts about the trauma come to mind even when you don’t want them to. You might also have nightmares or flashbacks about the trauma or may become upset when something reminds you of the event.
- Being constantly alert or on guard. You may be easily startled or angered, irritable or anxious and preoccupied with staying safe. You may also find it hard to concentrate or sleep or have physical problems, like constipation, diarrhoea, rapid breathing, muscle tension or rapid heart rate.
- Avoiding reminders of the trauma. You may not want to talk about the event or be around people or places that remind you of the event. You also may feel emotionally numb, detached from friends and family, and lose interest in activities.
- Panic attacks: a feeling of intense fear, with shortness of breath, dizziness, sweating, nausea and racing heart.
- Physical symptoms: chronic pain, headaches, stomach pain, diarrhoea, tightness or burning in the chest, muscle cramps or low back pain.
- Feelings of mistrust: losing trust in others and thinking the world is a dangerous place.
- Problems in daily living: having problems functioning in your job, at school, or in social situations.
- Substance abuse: using drugs or alcohol to cope with the emotional pain.
- Relationship problems: having problems with intimacy, or feeling detached from your family and friends.
- Depression: persistent sad, anxious or empty mood; loss of interest in once-enjoyed activities; feelings of guilt and shame; or hopelessness about the future. Other symptoms of depression may also develop.
The current PTSD diagnosis applies to one event lasting for a short time, however, there is a growing group of professionals calling for a separate diagnosis to describe the long-term emotional scarring following long-lasting trauma. While it is not an official diagnosis in the DSM-V, Complex PTSD/C-PTSD affects individuals who have experienced chronic inescapable traumas in which that they have had has little or no control over continuing for months or years at a time. It is important to note that you may have both PTSD and C-PTSD at the same time.
Who Can Get C-TPSD
- People who have survived living in concentration camps.
- People who have survived prisoner of war camps.
- Survivors of long-term childhood physical and/or sexual abuse.
- Anyone who has been part of a prostitution brothel.
- Survivors of long-term domestic violence.
PTSD and C-PTSD share many of the same symptoms, but literature has pointed to three symptoms exclusive to C-PTSD 
Problems with emotional regulation. You might have a lessened sense of emotional sensitivity. You may lack the ability to respond to situations appropriately or feel you are unable to control your emotions.
Problems with interpersonal relationships. You may have difficulty feeling close to another person; feel disconnected or distant from other people. It may be hard for you to maintain close relationships with family, significant others, or friends.
Negative self-concept. You may have a poor perception of oneself. You might feel worthless, helpless, shame, guilt, and other problems related to self-esteem.
C-PTSD can be treated with the same evidence-based treatments that are effective for treating PTSD. However, some research suggests that therapy with a focus on reestablishing a sense of control and power for the traumatized person can be especially beneficial. 
How Can I Feel Better?
PTSD can be treated with success. Treatment and support are critical to your recovery. Although your memories won’t go away, you can learn how to manage your response to these memories and the feelings they bring up. You can also reduce the frequency and intensity of your reactions. The following information may be of help to you.
Psychotherapy. Although it may seem painful to face the trauma you went through, doing so with the help of a mental health professional can help you get better. There are different types of therapy.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy helps you change the thought patterns that keep you from overcoming your anxiety.
- During exposure therapy, you work with a mental health professional to help you confront the memories and situations that cause your distress.
- Cognitive Processing Therapy helps you process your emotions about the traumatic event and learn how to challenge your thinking patterns.
- Psychodynamic psychotherapy focuses on identifying current life situations that set off traumatic memories and worsen PTSD symptoms.
- During Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, you think about the trauma while the therapist waves a hand or baton in front of you. You follow the movements with your eyes. This helps your brain process your memories and reduce your negative feelings about the memories.
- Couples counselling and family therapy help couples and family members understand each other.
Medicine, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs, is used to treat the symptoms of PTSD. It lowers anxiety and depression and helps with other symptoms. Sedatives can help with sleep problems. Anti-anxiety medicine may also help.
Support groups. This form of therapy, led by a mental health professional, involves groups of four to 12 people with similar issues to talk about. Talking to other survivors of trauma can be a helpful step in your recovery. You can share your thoughts to help resolve your feelings, gain confidence in coping with your memories and symptoms and find comfort in knowing you’re not alone.
Self-care. Recovering from PTSD is an ongoing process. But there are healthy steps you can take to help you recover and stay well. Discover which ones help you feel better and add them to your life.
- Connect with friends and family. It’s easy to feel alone when you’ve been through a trauma and are not feeling well. But isolation can make you feel worse. Talking to your friends and family can help you get the support you need. Studies show that having meaningful social and family connections in your life can have a positive impact on your health and healing.
- Relax. Each person has his or her own ways to relax. They may include listening to soothing music, reading a book or taking a walk. You can also relax by deep breathing, yoga, meditation or massage therapy. Avoid using drugs, alcohol or smoking to relax.
- Exercise. Exercise relieves your tense muscles, improves your mood and sleep, and boosts your energy and strength. In fact, research shows that exercise can ease symptoms of anxiety and depression. Try to do a physical activity three to five days a week for 30 minutes each day. If this is too long for you, try to exercise for 10 to 15 minutes to get started.
- Get enough rest. Getting enough sleep helps you cope with your problems better, lowers your risk for illness and helps you recover from the stresses of the day. Try to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Visit the Sleep Foundation at www.sleepfoundation.org for tips on getting a better night’s sleep.
- Keep a journal. Writing down your thoughts can be a great way to work through issues. Researchers have found that writing about painful events can reduce stress and improve health.
- Refrain from using drugs and alcohol. Although using drugs and alcohol may seem to help you cope, it can make your symptoms worse, delay your treatment and recovery, and can cause abuse or addiction problems.
- Limit caffeine. In some people, caffeine can trigger anxiety. Caffeine may also disturb your sleep.
- Help others. Reconnect to your community by volunteering. Research shows that volunteering builds social networks, improves self-esteem and can provide a sense of purpose and achievement.
- Limit TV watching. If watching the news or other programs bothers you, limit the amount of time you watch. Try not to listen to disturbing news before going to sleep. It might keep you from falling asleep right away.
Helping a Family Member with PTSD
If someone in your family has PTSD, it can be a hard time for family members too. Your loved one with PTSD may have symptoms that interfere with your relationship and change family life. If your loved one has PTSD, you may also be coping with these difficult feelings:
- Depressed or angry about the changes in family life.
- Fearful if your loved one is angry or aggressive.
- Reluctant to talk about the trauma or avoiding situations that might upset your loved one.
- Angry or resentful toward your loved one.
- Tired of sleep problems because of worry, depression or because of your loved one’s sleep problems.
- Isolated if your partner refuses to socialize.
- Emotional distance from your partner.
The stress of PTSD can affect all members of the family. If PTSD is affecting your family, consider contacting a mental health professional for individual, couples or family counselling. Through counselling, you can get the help you and your family need to cope with and support each other.
 National Center for PTSD, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. What is posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?,http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/ncmain/ncdocs/fact_shts/fs_what_is_ptsd.html.
 Kessler, R. C., Petukhova, M., Sampson, N. A., Zaslavsky, A. M., & Wittchen, H.-U. (2012). Twelve-month and lifetime prevalence and lifetime morbid risk of anxiety and mood disorders in the United States. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research, 21(3), 169–184. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22865617
 Cloitre, M., Garvert, D., Weiss, B., Carlson, E. & Bryant, R. (2014). Distinguishing PTSD, Complex PTSD, and Borderline Personality Disorder: A latent class analysis. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 5.
 National Center for PTSD, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Treatment of PTSD,http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/facts/treatment/fs_treatment.html.
 Smyth JM, Hockemeyer J, Anderson C, Strandberg K, Koch M, O’Neill HK, & McCammon S. (2002). Structured writing about a natural disaster buffers the effect of intrusive thoughts on negative affect and physical symptoms. The Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies. Online athttp://www.massey.ac.nz/~trauma/issues/2002-1/smyth.htm.