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What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder, that may result from severe trauma.


PTSD is currently classified under 'Trauma & Stressor Disorders', as per the Amercian Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic Manual (DSM).


PTSD is often thought of as being something only combat veterans develop, however, there are many trauma types that can cause PTSD.


Not everyone who experiences severe trauma will go on to get PTSD, most will not. Some people after a trauma, may develop some PTSD symptoms, but they will go away after a few weeks.


When these symptoms do not go away, then a diagnosis with a mental health professional trained in trauma and trauma related mental illness, needs to made.


Self diagnosis is rarely accurate.






In DSM-5, published in May, 2013, PTSD is classified as a trauma and stressor related disorder.


PTSD is no longer classed as an anxiety disorder.





PTSD has several distinct catagories of symptoms including;


Hyperarousal........ is similar to the jumpy feeling that drinking too much coffee causes.

We might experience it as anxiety, agitation or irritability.

It is commonly known as the state of ‘fight or flight’.


Intrusions........ occur when traumatic experiences dating from a person’s past, break through into their consciousness and are experienced as though they are occurring in the present.

They are called "flashbacks"

Unwanted intrusive memories can also occur.


Avoidance........ is an attempt to defend oneself against danger by limiting contact with the world.

This can involve withdrawing from others or narrowing the range of thoughts and feelings a person allows him/herself to acknowledge.

Avoidance can take the form of repression (locking the memory of a traumatic event away), denial (failing to acknowledge that an event which occurred, actually happened), dissociation (altered perception) or amnesia (memory loss).

Survivors subconsciously use any or all of these techniques to survive the trauma of their abuse.


Other indicators of PTSD may include:


  • Panic attacks

  • Uncontrollable crying

  • Uncontrollable rages

  • Eating disorders

  • Suicidal feelings

  • Self mutilation

  • Somatic pain

  • Terror

  • Addictions (alcohol, drugs, sex)

  • Overreaction to minor stress

  • Sleep disorders

  • Sense of defilement or stigma

  • Nightmares

  • State of fight or flight

  • Extreme mood swings

  • High risk behaviours

  • Shame, guilt and blame










The PTSD brain is highly sensitive to all sensory processing and stimuli.

This includes noise, visual, lighting, smell etc.

This is because the PTSD brain is stuck on full alert.

So, places like shopping centres/malls can be a nightmare for the PTSD sufferer, especially for someone with severe PTSD (there is a PTSD continuum).

Shopping centres is a good example, as the visual stimuli of the shops and all the people, the competing noises, the lighting, the music, all overloads the PTSD brain.

On bad days, I cannot tolerate shopping centres, and have often left after 10 minutes with a headache and feeling very irritable and anxiety rising.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - PTSD, is all about managing these symptoms.





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