I am delighted to have Emilie Masi of health and wellbeing website, Nursemummy.com, as my guest blogger. Emilie has a Bachelor of Nursing and a Masters of Advanced Nursing Practice and works as a Clinical Nurse Consultant. Emilie has a passion for helping people and providing quality health information, tips and tricks and advice.
Emilie’s blog is a synopsis of her grandfather’s battle with PTSD. This debilitating condition affects both men and women, with women experiencing these symptoms longer than men, on average four years versus one year.
Women may experience PTSD differently from men. Women with PTSD may be more likely than men with PTSD to be easily startled; have more trouble feeling emotions or feel numb; avoid things that remind them of the trauma; feel depressed and anxious.
PTSD – Traumatic Experiences
“I was back there again. Facing my deepest fear, being overwhelmed by the fight or flight response. But I could do neither. I couldn’t run, and I couldn’t fight. I was frozen and engulfed in fear. Not able to move or respond. I watched as he died in the most traumatic way, unable to help and unable to save him. Then I woke up.”
Post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is extremely distressing. People who have PTSD can experience traumatic life events in flash back and in dreams.
My grandfather was a World War II prisoner of war. He tried to put the memories to the back of his memory. But they came out when he was alone, and at night when he was trying to sleep, if he heard a familiar noise, or smelt a familiar smell. These triggers reminded him of his traumatic experiences as a soldier. The trauma was so intense, he could be thrown back into that experience again without warning.
My Grandfather had several traumatic experiences as an 18 year old that stayed with him for life, which he died holding onto.
PTSD relates to a combination of reactions that can occur in people who have experienced a traumatic event, which was a threat to their life or someone else’s.
PTSD does not only relate to experiences of war (like my grandfather), but can relate to sexual assault, physical assault, serious car accidents, terrorist events, torture, or during the event of a natural disaster.
What are the signs and symptoms of PTSD?
- Experiencing intense anxiety and panic through flash backs to memories of the traumatic event
- Reliving the event through memories and unwanted dreams which are very vivid and distressing. This can occur as a nightmare, or a trigger event during every day life. The scary thing about this is that it can occur without your control or without warning
- Often the sufferer has the flash backs of the traumatic event which cause physical symptoms such as panic attacks, heart palpitations and extreme sweating
- May be easily scared or startled and respond in a way that seems “over the top” for those witnessing the event
- Sleeping difficulties, scared to go to sleep in case they relive the event in a nightmare
- Irritability and bouts of anger
- Lack of concentration
- Having negative thoughts about yourself
- Appear to always be “hyper” alert and looking for signs of danger like they are in a constant fight or flight response.
- Avoids reminders of the event. This may be not attending memorial services, or avoiding certain places, people that may remind them of the event.
- Socially isolate themselves and pull away from loved ones and friends
- Feeling of being “numb” and not in tune with the emotional or physical self
- Misuse of alcohol and other drugs to try and dull down the painful memories
How common is PTSD?
According to Beyond Blue, up to 12 percent of fellow Australians will experience PTSD, with the most common cause being traumatic accidents. Approximately 15 percent of Vietnam vets and 12 percent of Gulf War vets have PTSD.
You don’t need to be a veteran to get PTSD, it can happen to anyone at any age.
Treatment Options for people experiencing PTSD
It is common for people who have experienced a traumatic event to experience some symptoms within the first two weeks. Sometimes this will resolve on its own, but if symptoms persist past that two week mark, there are some treatments and helpful resources available to help you.
Some of those include
- Gaining support from friends and family. Surrounding yourself with a network of supportive people can be paramount in your recovery
- If you’re struggling with symptoms of PTSD, it is important you see your doctor to discuss further options to help you. This may include medication, counselling, psychiatry
- Cognitive behavioural therapy has been shown to be a very effective treatment for PTSD
- Phoenix Australia is a national centre that helps people in post-traumatic mental health. There are also resources on their website
There is no shame in getting help if needed. If you are experiencing signs and symptoms listed above, please reach out for help. If only my grandad had these services available to help him after his traumatic experiences, he may have had a more peaceful life not controlled by traumatic experiences.
written by Emilie Masi
Proud grand-daughter of Desmond Pugh
Janice Williams is a professional Counsellor and specialises in mother-daughter relationship counselling.
Janice offers in-person counselling, as well as online and phone counselling across Australia. Online counselling is available worldwide.