In our everyday lives, any of us can have an experience that is overwhelming, frightening, and beyond our control. For example, we could find ourselves in a car crash, be the victim of an assault, or see an accident. Most people, in time, get over experiences like this without needing help. In some people, though, traumatic experiences set off a reaction that can last for many months or years.
There are three main types of symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD):
- Flashbacks and nightmares. You find yourself re-living the event, again and again. This can happen both as a 'flashback' in the day and as nightmares when you are asleep. Ordinary things can trigger off flashbacks.
- Avoidance and numbing. It can be just too upsetting to re-live your experience over and over again. So you distract yourself. You keep your mind busy by losing yourself in a hobby, working very hard, or spending your time absorbed in crosswords or jigsaw puzzles. You avoid places and people that remind you of the trauma, and try not to talk about it.
- Being 'on guard'. You find that you stay alert all the time, as if you are looking out for danger. You can’t relax. This is called 'hypervigilance'. You feel anxious and find it hard to sleep.
The following feedback was provided by a Veteran with symptoms of PTSD.
I would like to thank you for your help over these past few months. I admire you for the work you do in helping others in hard times. You alone have made me feel proud again to be a Veteran and to be able to talk about my military career. I am a front line soldier and always will be.