Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition that can develop following exposure to a traumatic event during which there was threat of serious injury or death to oneself or others, and intense fear, horror, or helplessness was experienced in response to the event. Most individuals who experience a traumatic event need support from those close to them in the period immediately following the event, and are usually able to return to their normal functioning. If a person continues to experience significant distress however, and their ability to function in areas such as social relationships and employment is impaired beyond a month, then they may have developed PTSD

The symptoms of PTSD fall into three main categories:

  • Re-experiencing symptoms such as intrusive and distressing thoughts or images of the traumatic event, nightmares, or physical reactions similar to those that were experienced during the event itself (i.e. panic) 
  • Avoidance symptoms such as increased attempts to avoid any reminders of the event, and emotional numbing such as feeling detached, or no longer having strong feelings about anyone or anything.
  • Hyper-arousal symptoms such as not being able to get to sleep, or waking frequently, jumpiness and being easily startled, irritability, and  difficulty concentrating.

When symptoms are present but it is less than a month since the event, a diagnosis of Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) may be made.

Although it is possible for anyone to develop PTSD after a traumatic event, there are some factors that are associated with increased vulnerability for developing this disorder. A traumatic event that involved physical or sexual assault, prior or repeated experiences of trauma such as sexual abuse or living in a war zone, or having experienced PTSD in the past, can all leave a person at increased likelihood of developing PTSD in response to a current or recent trauma. About five per cent of all Australians have had PTSD at some point in their lives.

Australia has released treatment guidelines for PTSD.

At the Psychology, Trauma & Mindfulness Centre we specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of trauma-related conditions. If you believe that you or someone you care about may be experiencing symptoms of PTSD (or ASD), it may be helpful to discuss your concerns with a Clinical Psychologist with specialised training and experience in the treatment of trauma.  For more information or to make an appointment please contact us.