Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD, is a disorder that can develop if a person experiences a shocking or disturbing event, or series of events. For example, war or combat, a terrorist attack, a serious accident, a natural disaster or a rape or violent assault. PTSD can also occur in people who have been subjected to physical or emotional abuse. PTSD is common amongst persons employed in occupations where they are exposed to dangerous or violent situations, such as military personnel, police officers, ambulance personnel or firefighters.

Symptoms can occur for the first time within a couple of months of the traumatic event, however some people may experience it months or even years later. PTSD can leave casualties feeling angry, guilty, depressed, anxious and grief stricken. Many sufferers experience nightmares or flashbacks of the event.

It can cause physical as well as emotional symptoms such as irregular heartbeats, headaches, random aches and pains and diarrhoea. Sufferers can have panic attacks, or they may constantly be jumpy or “on guard”.

The term PTSD came into use in the 1970s, but the disorder has been documented for much longer. Soldiers returning from service after World War One were described as having “Shell Shock” and it was called “Combat Fatigue” after the Second World War. However, PTSD is not limited to service personnel anyone can suffer and it is more likely to affect woman.

Sadly, many sufferers self-medicate by turning to Alcohol and/or drugs to temporarily relieve the symptoms. Unfortunately, this doesn’t last for long and once the drugs wear off the symptoms return with force, made much worse by the added anxiety and depression associated with a substance misuse problem.

Reports of PTSD sufferers with substance abuse problems is on the rise. Approximately 40-50% of lifetime sufferers of PTSD will also have a drug or alcohol problem. It is important when receiving treatment for PTSD and substance abuse that the both problems are addressed simultaneously to ensure a greater chance of success.

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