Mental Health Matters and COVID PART (1)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

COVID really does have a lot to answer for! Not only has it completed changed the way we live, but it’s also affected our lives forever. This week marked the first anniversary of lockdown and was used as a day of reflection to remember those we have lost, those who are still fighting and those whose lives will be forever changed.

Not only has COVID brought about physical hurdles and impact, but it is also affecting our mental health in so many ways. Over the next few weeks, we will be highlighting one of the ways COVID has affected our mental health, with this week’s focus on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):

The following information can be very sensitive to read, with that in mind, please be kind and patient with yourself and be mindful of your limits. Know that you are not alone.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - PTSD:

“PTSD is essentially a memory filing error caused by a traumatic event”

When a person encounters a traumatic event, their brain naturally goes in to survival mode and can induce the fight or flight response; this is a common reaction where the brain will only function on keeping us safe. The fight or flight response is experienced by everyone multiple times but when the event is traumatic it can have a huge impact on how the brain “files” the memory. This can lead to a person regularly remembering or reliving the facts of the event, being triggered by sounds, objects, words or smells associated with that point in their lives and this can be very distressing.

PTSD can affect anyone:

  • - If you have experienced the traumatic event

  • - If you have witnessed, in person, the traumatic event

  • - If you have learned someone close to you experienced or was threatened by the traumatic event

  • - If you are repeatedly exposed to graphic details traumatic events (eg. If you are a first responder to the scene of traumatic events)

Symptoms of PTSD:

To be diagnosed with PTSD, an individual must have all of the following for at least 1 month:

  • - At least one re-experiencing symptom

  • - At least one avoidance symptom

  • - At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms

  • - At least two cognition and mood symptoms

PTSD can present itself in many different ways, here are the 4 main areas of symptoms:

Re-experiencing symptoms

These can be triggered by words, objects or thoughts and feelings that remind the person of the traumatic event

  • - Flashbacks where you relive the event

  • - Re-occurring nightmares or memories of the event

  • - Distressing or intrusive thoughts

  • - Physical reactions such as sweating, shaking, feeling nauseous or in pain

Avoidance Symptoms

These symptoms might lead to someone changing their daily routines in order to actively avoid doing something. For example, someone who experienced a car accident might want to avoid driving or getting in to a car.

  • - Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience

  • - Feeling that you need to keep yourself busy all the time

  • - The use of alcohol or drugs to avoid memories

  • - Feeling emotionally numb or cut off from your feelings

  • - Feeling numb or detached from your body

  • - Being unable to remember details of the trauma

Arousal and reactivity Symptoms

  • - Being jumpy or easily startled

  • - Feeling tense or “on edge” – also know as hypervigilance

  • - Difficulties concentrating, even on simple tasks

  • - Difficulties sleeping, either getting to sleep or having an undisturbed sleep

  • - Irritability or angry and aggressive outbursts

  • - Self-destructive or reckless behaviours

Cognition and Mood Symptoms

  • - Trouble remembering key features of the traumatic event

  • - Feeling like you can’t trust anyone

  • - Distorted thoughts about the trauma that cause feelings of blame and guilt

  • - Overwhelming negative emotions, such as fear, sadness, anger, guilt, or shame

  • - Loss of interest in previous activities

  • - Feeling like nowhere is safe

  • - Difficulty feeling positive emotions, such as happiness or satisfaction

If you feel that you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is best to seek medical advice. Whilst there is a guideline for formal diagnosis, it is good to explore the symptoms with a medical professional to see what support is available to you. It isn’t only adults who can suffer with PTSD so if you feel that your child has been exposed to a traumatic event, it is important to seek medical advice as soon as possible.

If you are someone who is close to a person displaying any of these symptoms, it is best to seek advice and guidance. Be kind to yourself and know that things, in time, will get brighter.

“Always remember, if you have been diagnosed with PTSD, it is not a sign of weakness; rather, it is proof of your strength because you have survived!” Anonymous

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