Trauma, both physical and mental, affects each of us in different ways. In fact, the effects of trauma can sometimes be hidden for months or years after such an event, only to come to the surface when you least expect it.
The long-term effects of trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are wide and varied, and can be truly crippling to those it directly, and indirectly, affects.
Understanding PTSD and how it might affect you, your mind, your body and your loved ones is paramount to treating the condition.
What is PTSD?
PTSD is a mental health condition triggered by experiencing – or witnessing – a terrifying, violent and/or dangerous event.
Your experience might be physical, as in a violent or harmful event on your body, or it might be something you saw, heard or lived through, for either a short or long period of time.
What symptoms should you know about?
PTSD symptoms can be difficult to diagnose as the signs can occur either soon after the event or months, to years, later.
There are 4 types of PTSD symptoms:
- Intrusive memories: which can be recurring, unwarranted, distressing memories, dreams, flashbacks, and severe emotional or physical reactions to things that remind you of the event.
- Avoidance: actively avoiding talking, thinking, visiting similar places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event.
- Negative changes: these directly affect your mood or thinking, and can include hopelessness, memory problems, feeling numb, or struggling to experience positive emotions.
- Physical and emotional reactions: these symptoms involve wide-ranging changes, including being easily frightened, aggressive or angry outbursts, overwhelming shame or guilt and self-destructive behaviour. Children might re-enact the traumatic events or have continuous nightmares involving parts of the traumatic event.
What long-term effects can you experience?
PTSD can impact both your short- and long-term physical and mental state. Long-term effects include:
- Anxiety: a wide range of feelings of fear and nervousness, leading to a feeling of being totally overwhelmed with some situations. These strong emotions can result in drug and alcohol abuse as a way to self-medicate and cope.
- Insomnia and other sleep disorders: sleep, and good, healthy sleep, is a cornerstone to good health. Sufferers of PTSD can struggle with a wide variety of sleep disorders, leading to constant fatigue and lack of energy. Long-term sleep disturbances increase your risk for a bunch of other health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.
- Chronic pain: an after-effect of a physically traumatic experience and can lead to a lifetime of physical pain. This pain can be amplified by the presence of PTSD.
Social withdrawal: a by-product of the symptoms of PTSD that can force sufferers to withdraw entirely and struggle to form long-lasting relationships.
- Guilt or shame: PTSD sufferers can feel an overwhelming sense of guilt or shame, both for the traumatic event or even surviving a traumatic event.
How do you know if you’re suffering from PTSD?
PTSD is not always the simplest thing to diagnose as the symptoms can be felt so long after a traumatic event. If you’ve experienced a traumatic event and feel like you’re suffering some form of lasting impact, you should seek the help of a counsellor or therapist.
GetSavvi Health members have exclusive access to the 24-hour Trauma Counselling hotline, where licensed, accredited medical professionals are on hand to assist in any way they can.
If you ever need help but aren’t a GetSavvi Health member, simply contact Lifeline South Africa on 0861 32 23 22.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
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Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
The Long-term Impact of PTSD
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How Trauma Affects the Human Body
Understanding the Impact of Trauma
5 Long-Term Effects of Emotional Trauma
Free Telephone Counselling Hotlines in South Africa