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What Causes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and How Can You Tell if You Have it?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a medically diagnosed anxiety disorder that is a result of severe psychological trauma.

A person who experiences PTSD may have suffered a physically, psychologically or sexually threatening situation which caused them to become overwhelmed or lose control.  PTSD is more extreme and less frequent than the more commonly seen Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) in which a person may experience extreme, disturbing or unexpected fear, stress or pain for a short period of time.

There is no clear reason why one person who experiences trauma may recover while another suffers from PTSD.

A person’s psychological maturity and their ability to cope with psychological stress will vary depending on their upbringing, environment, and personality.

Diagnostic symptoms of PTSD include irrational behaviours, reoccurring nightmares, traumatic flashbacks or increased arousal – such as hyper vigilance and difficulty falling asleep.

The fourth Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (or DSM-IV-TR) is a set of formal diagnostic criteria used by medical professionals to identify and diagnose PTSD in patients. Such criteria require that PTSD symptoms persist for a period longer than a month and consider the degree of social, occupational and physical impairment that is suffered as a result.

A traumatic event may manifest in many ways and each case is unique to the patient. However traumatic events are not to be confused with difficult or stressful situations.

While we experience difficult and stressful situations every day, a traumatic event is significant enough to cause the victim extreme and ongoing psychological problems. Such traumatic events usually involve a direct and immediate threat to the life of the victim or their loved ones, but it can also be caused in other ways by experiencing/witnessing some extreme events which shake our deepest held beliefs.

Varying degrees of PTSD is not uncommon but regularly go undiagnosed. A person suffering from PTSD symptoms should seek professional help as soon as possible. Ignored and untreated, PTSD can have significant and ongoing effects on a person’s ability to function within society and complete day to day tasks. Prevention and early intervention strategies are often the best way to overcome the burdens of PTSD.

Psychological debriefing is the most common form of preventative measure that has been tried but its results are mixed. These debriefing interviews are best held directly following the traumatic event and encourage the victim to talk openly with their councillor to resolve their feelings of anxiety.

Psychotherapeutic intervention in the form of behavioural and cognitive behavioural therapy has also found success in PTSD patients. Cognitive behavioural therapy seeks to help process the trauma, change the way a PTSD victim feels and reacts by changing the patterns of thinking and behaving. Medications are also used for managing PTSD. The evidence suggests that medications in conjunction with psychological therapies produce stronger results.

Centre For Human Potential offers PTSD counselling services. Their experienced and professional Psychologists can help you develop strategies to deal with your psychological stress and get to on the road to recovery. Contact our experienced brisbane psychologist at Centre For Human Potential today.


Dr Sam Wee Hong Tan | CFHP
Sam Tan

Sam is a Clinical Psychologist with a down-to-earth nature who has a very open and warm approach. Sam works collaboratively with his clients to raise awareness of patterns within themselves and patterns of relating with others.

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