Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a mental health condition that develops after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Not everyone will develop PTSD. After experiencing or witnessing the traumatic event, people often experience a stress response called acute stress disorder (ASD). The symptoms are the same as those in PTSD. However with ASD, symptoms last for one month or less. If ASD is caught early, a person may have a better chance of recovery with PTSD.

Symptoms

  • Intrusive memories, flashbacks, or nightmares related to the traumatic event.
  • Avoidance of any triggers associated with the trauma or reminders
  • Mood changes (persistent fear, guilt, emotional numbness, anger)
  • Hyperarousal (irritability, difficulty concentrating, or exaggerated startle response)
  • Development of disorders such as depression, and addiction

Types

  • Acute PTSD (Symptoms last less than three months after the traumatic event)
  • Chronic PTSD (Symptoms persist for three months or longer, causing significant impairment in daily functioning.
  • Delayed-onset PTSD (Symptoms appear months or even years after the traumatic event)

Causes

  • Experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event (military or personal combat, natural disasters, emotional and verbal assault and/or physical or sexual assault, serious/near death accidents)
  • The severity of trauma, previous life experiences, individual vulnerability factors and support after the event, may influence the likelihood of developing PTSD.

Treatment

  • Psychotherapy (CBT, EMDR, Exposure therapy, etc.)
  • Medications (SSRIs and other antidepressants, anxiolyitcs for anxiety, sleep aids)
  • Lifestyle and behavioral changes
  • Support groups

African Context

As is the case with many psychological disorders PTSD is not very well understood in Africa. Very often surviving a traumatic event is seen as a blessing and people are often asked to be grateful to God for this. As a result, many suffer in silence with their challenges, or end up relying on substances to cope. This leads to the development of long term health issues as well as relational challenges. So, if you or anyone you know is/may be struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder or any other mental health challenge, you can reach out to a professional here.

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