Post-traumatic stress disorder

By Hiawkal Gizachew

We all react to traumatic events differently, as well as coping with the event. Most people who experience a traumatic event may feel sad, anxious, angry, fearful and frightened for short period of time after the event. These reactions tend to be normal, if they go away over time. However, sometimes the traumatic event can be so overwhelming that one feels distressed, shocked, freighted, angry, and hopeless for a longer period of time. Events that could be considered traumatic are assault, domestic abuse, prison stay, rape, terrorism, war, serious accidents and natural disasters. According to the American Psychological Association, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), is an anxiety problem that develops in some people after extremely traumatic events, such as combat, crime, an accident or natural disaster. This means PTSD is a disorder that can occur after a traumatic or terrifying event in which serious physical harm occurred or was witnessed. So, the question becomes, how does one know if s/he is experiencing PTSD or a normal reaction after a traumatic event?

Symptoms of PTSD fall into three main categories: The first one is “Re-living”; persons with PTSD repeatedly re-live the event through thoughts and memories of the trauma. These may include flashbacks or nightmares where the event seems to be happening again and again, and the strong negative reactions can remind the victim of past trauma. The second category is “Avoidance”; persons with PTSD may avoid people, places, thoughts and situations that may remind them of the trauma. This can lead a person to feeling detached, numb and a lack of interest in normal activities. The third category is “Arousal”, difficulty concentrating. Feeling irritable or having outbursts of anger, sleep disturbance (trouble falling or staying asleep), and being easily startled, are some of them. Furthermore, anger, irritability, guilt, shame, depression, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, feeling alone, and feeling of distrust are other common symptoms of PTSD. These symptoms can impair daily functioning activities such as appetite, sleep, work, or school.

An example of PTSD would be someone who was imprisoned in Ethiopia. This victim may have been tortured, beaten, threatened, and interrogated. This person may feel his/her life was in danger and had no control over what was happening. After being released, the person may have upsetting memories of the event, nightmares, loss of interest in activities and life in general, difficulty falling or staying asleep, difficulty concentrating, and an increased attempt to avoid reminders of the trauma.

Coping with PTSD can be hard; you may try to numb yourself and avoid the painful memories; however, it is like the saying “beshetawen yaletenagere medanite ayegayeletem.” If you are experiencing PTSD, seek treatment to help you cope with the trauma you have experienced. During counseling for PTSD, a counselor will help you explore your thoughts and feelings associated with the traumatic event, provide education on PTSD and how to cope with intrusive memories, address resulting problems in your life caused as a result of the trauma, help you identify internal and external triggers, as well as techniques that will help you cope with PTSD symptoms.

(The writer can be reached at [email protected])