“Oh don’t mind him, he’s got PTSD”…said one bloke to his mate in the pub. “What’s all that about then?” came the quizzical reply. For a brief moment I was stunned, surely everyone knows what PTSD is these days, or maybe they don’t?
Despite personally possessing a broad overview of the condition, as well as having more than one personal friend who suffers from it, I decided to look into the subject a little deeper.
So what is PTSD or, to give the condition its full name, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? The simple definition describes it as “a natural emotional reaction to a deeply shocking and disturbing experience. It is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation.”
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a reaction to exposure to very stressful and traumatising events. People experience flashbacks, panic attacks and other acute symptoms. It can be treated, so it is important to get expert help…(mentalhealth.org.uk)
Those that know anything about PTSD usually think of the suffering being confined to military personnel. It’s true there is a high likelihood of its impact upon those who have served their nation in conflict however; no one is immune to this illness, and it is an illness.
Soldiers, and other military personnel, may well be shot or blown up and they may also see friends killed or injured in action but, thankfully PTSD isn’t actually as prevalent as many would expect.
A number of UK studies have found links between active service and mental health problems in armed service personnel involved in recent conflicts. A very recent study of 10,000 serving personnel (83% regulars; 27% reservists) found lower than expected levels of PTSD…(mentalhealth.org.uk)
The modern-day mental illness of PTSD is not really a new phenomenon, at least in a military context. Going back as far as WWI, many soldiers suffered from what was then refered to as Shell Shock. Back then, as in the case of Private Harry Farr, men were executed for cowardice when realistically, they were actually suffering shell shock.
Military trauma causes flashbacks, nightmares, anger and depression – often leading to violence, alcohol and substance abuse, job loss, family breakdown and even suicide…(PTSDresolution.org)
We’ve now moved on somewhat in the after care stakes. However, due to military service in Northern Ireland during the troubles, the Falklands War, the Iraq War and military intervention in Afghanistan et al, instances of this mental injury are perhaps more common than we suspect.
The symptoms of PTSD can start immediately or after a delay of weeks or months, but usually within 6 months of the traumatic event (RCPSYCH)
Today, it’s very likely a sufferer would be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, or another similar psychiatric syndrome. Much of this understanding can be attributed to real life examples of the problems sufferers face, along with the impacts upon their families and friends. Blogs such as A Spouse’s Story and books like For Queen and country then what? have helped massively with a greater understanding for the lay person.
Although we generally have a better understanding of the condition now, at least from a medical point of view, the issues that go with it sadly still exist.
But in our everyday lives, any one of us can have an experience that is overwhelming, frightening, and beyond our control. We could find ourselves in a car crash, be the victim of an assault, or be witness to horrific incidents. PTSD does NOT confine itself to soldiers, or other military personnel. Police, fire brigade or ambulance workers are also most likely to have such experiences – they often have to deal with horrifying scenes.
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…(read more)
There are many books available on the subject of PTSD ranging from the out-and-out medical journal type of publication down to the awareness/FAQ pamphlet. One such example is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder For Dummies written by Dr. Mark Goulston. In it he explains how; “a traumatic event can turn your world upside down — but just because you′re still afraid doesn′t mean you′re still in danger”. It aims to help sufferers understand that there actually is a path out of PTSD.
It just takes the will and the way for your heart and soul to accept what the logical part of your mind already knows…(Dr. Mark Goulston)
As with many publications in the ‘For Dummies’ series, this book has a slight tendency towards Americanisms and thoughts, experiences, methodology and treatments from across the pond. That said and despite originating in a land where even your pets have therapists, it is one of the more readable and digestible books on the subject. It has mixed but mostly favourable reviews at Amazon.com.
Getting help as a sufferer of PTSD can be problematical. Given the relatively macho nature of some of those roles most susceptible to PTSD, many individuals won’t even want to seek help in the first place. The initial hurdle to recovery is an acknowledgement of the issues, even if you don’t really understand them. Once accepted, a sensible first option would be to seek medical help and visit a doctor.
One in four people visit their GP with an emotional or psychological problem. In many cases, with tried-and-tested resources and good support, it’s possible to successfully manage your symptoms. (overcoming.co.uk)
Some may still favour more of a self-help type approach. This is where books like Overcoming Traumatic Stress come into play because it’s based around a Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) approach. These techniques are the favoured alternative to drugs as a treatment for common mental health problems. CBT has been shown to be particularly helpful at tackling problems such as anxiety, depression and PTSD.
Note: You can read more about this book by following this link. You will also find that this book is part of an extensive series of self-help books on mental health issues (see here). This book may also be available to you in the UK via a Books on Prescription (BOP) scheme (see here).
CBT is based on the principle that certain types of thoughts which we have about ourselves — at their most simple, whether we think we are loved, wanted, despised or boring — have a major effect on the way we perceive the world. This self-help book demonstrates, with practical advice and tested exercises, how to find new and effective ways of coping with and eventually overcoming, traumatic stress.
Often the individual suffering from PTSD is not the only one suffering from the condition. There can be many others who also endure the impacts of PTSD in their loved ones, i.e. partners, children, other relatives and friends.
Those people are most likely to trawl the internet looking for answers and help. That factor alone was a good enough reason to write this blog post, if only to try to provide a little help with providing a starting point for their further research.
Remember, as with many mental health issues, it is usually better to try to talk to someone about those problems, as opposed to bottling them all up inside. If you don’t feel able to approach a ‘professional’ at least try to find a non-judgemental and empathetic ear amongst your family or friends.
- PTSD.org.uk: originally created for ex-servicemen & women who have served their country and now suffering from PTSD, it has become apparent others can and have been gaining benefit from visiting and using the resources within it.
- Combat Stress UK: works with Veterans of the British Armed Forces, and members of the Reserve Forces, through effective treatment and support for mental health problems.
- PTSD Resolution: is a charity that offers counselling with a 78% success rate to UK armed forces’ TA and Regular Reserves and dependants.
- Phoenix House Recovery Centre: in Catterick is one of several centres run by Help for Heroes and forms part of the Defence Recovery Capability.
- Mental Health Foundation: helping people to survive, recover from and prevent mental health problems.
- Rethink Mental Illness: challenging attitudes, changing lives, mental health charity based in England leading the way to a better life for everyone affected by mental illness.
- Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPSYCH): some of the information produced above was obtained from their PTSD leaflet (see here).
- Help For Heroes (H4H): a charity with a mission to “deliver an enduring national network of support for our wounded and their families. They inspire and enable those who have made sacrifices on our behalf to achieve their full potential.
- Royal British Legion (RBL): The Health and Welfare section of the Legion covers a wide variety of support services for the whole Armed Forces family. The RBL is providing £27 million to establish and operate The Battle Back Centre as part of its commitment to support wounded, injured and sick Service personnel. The Centre is part of the MoD’s Defence Recovery Capability programme.
- Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families Association (SSAFA): a charity that does whatever it takes to get things done. They provide practical support and assistance to servicemen and women, veterans, and the families of both.
- Veterans UK: is in effect the ‘front-end’ of The Service Personnel & Veterans Agency (SPVA), an executive agency of The MOD and provides information in support of both military personnel and the veterans community.
- Positive Action For PTSD (Facebook): the UK’s first organisation to Campaign – Educate – Support ALL forms of PTSD for everyone affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- About Turn CIC: is a North East based is a ‘not for profit’ social enterprise that is legally constituted as a Community Interest Company. Founded in response to the disturbing number of veterans that found it difficult to cope after having served in a variety of combat zones around the world over the last 70 years.
- A Spouse’s Story: is actually a USA based site but it’s one where “ALL people from all nations” who have or are living with someone who has PTSD. A useful resource for anyone who would like to educate themselves on the subject for the benefit of others.
- Dr. Mark Goulston, MD: is an expert on PTSD, suicide prevention, and violence intervention and maintains a private clinical practice. He has lectured at several American universities and trained FBI agents and police hostage negotiators.
This blog is merely intended a starting point resource for information. In no way should it be seen as a self-diagnosis tool. If you are worried about your state of mind, due to a traumatic incident and/or you believe you may be suffering from PTSD, your are strongly advised to seek help from your GP or a professional councilor specialising in this field.