What is it

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a stress-related disorder in which people experience symptoms of re-living a trauma, avoidance of reminders of a trauma, and physiological reactions, following exposure to a situation that is life-threatening or has potential for serious injury, such as physical or sexual assault, natural disaster, war, or a serious accident.  Most people will experience at least one of these types of events during their lives.

What it includes

People with PTSD report either direct exposure to a traumatic event, witnessing a trauma occurring to others, learning of a traumatic event occurring to someone close, or repeated exposure to aversive details of a traumatic event/s.
After the trauma people experience:

  • Symptoms of intrusion regarding the trauma, including one or more of:
    • recurrent distressing memories, dreams
    • flashbacks where it feels as it the trauma is reoccurring
    • intense distress and physiological reactions when exposed to reminders of the trauma
 
  • Persistent avoidance of, or efforts to avoid distressing memories, thoughts or feelings related to the trauma, or external reminders (eg., people, places, situations) of the trauma, that arouse distressing memories, thoughts and feelings about the trauma
 
  • Negative thoughts and mood related to the trauma, including two or more of:
    • inability to recall aspects of the trauma
    • negative beliefs themselves, others or the world
    • distorted beliefs about the cause of the trauma resulting in self/other blame
    • emotions of fear, horror, anger, guilt or shame
    • decreased interest in activities
    • feelings of detachment from others
    • inability to experience positive emotions
 
  • Marked physiological arousal related to the trauma, as indicated by two or more of:
    • Irritable/angry outbursts
    • reckless or self-destructive behavior
    • hypervigilance
    • exaggerated startle response
    • decreased concentration
    • sleep disturbance
These symptoms occur for more than one month, cause extreme distress or impairment in social, occupational or other functioning, and are not attributable to the effects of a substance or another medical condition. 
Symptoms can also include recurrent feelings of detachment from one’s mental processes or body, or surroundings.

How a psychologist can help

References

American Psychiatric Association.  (2013).  Diagnostic and Statistical manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.).   Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Phoenix Autralia – Centre for Posttraumatic Mental health (2013).  Australian Guidelines for the treatment of Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Phoenix Australia, Melbourne, Victoria.  www.phoenixaustralia.org; www.clinicalguidelines.gov.au

Author

Tania Murray

If you require additional information, please call our office on 07 3256 6320. Our mental health focused reception staff will be only too happy to assist you with your enquiry about our service and can suggest the most suitable Psychologist for your concern.