We all go through stressful life events. However, some of them can leave deep and lasting psychological wounds and also the appearance of a post-traumatic stress disorder. This can be, for example, a road or work accident, physical, sexual or marital violence. It can also be a disaster, an attack, the death of a person. These events can affect us directly or those around us, in our adult lives or even in our childhood.
You have experienced a traumatic event.
Everyone may react differently.
Some feel a multitude of emotions such as sadness, anger, guilt, which often mix together. On the contrary, others will feel cut off from their emotions, as if anaesthetized.
All these reactions are usual and frequent and will gradually diminish over time to finally disappear, usually after a month. Their disappearance shows that we have "digested" the event we went through.
But sometimes we have difficulties to overcome the event and its consequences on our life.
They can occur very quickly or, on the contrary, months or even years later. We then relive the event in the form of nightmares, flashes, thoughts that come even if we don't want them to. We also start to avoid everything that reminds us of the event.
Some everyday things become more difficult, even impossible, such as going to work, shopping or even walking. At the same time, we feel constantly alert, always in danger. We feel like we are different now, that our life before the event has been swept away.
These signs should lead us to seek help.
Indeed, these difficulties can become even worse. They can damage relationships with our loved ones. But they can also lead to other problems such as excessive alcohol or drug use, depression, suicidal thoughts.
It's time to talk to a health care professional because it may be post-traumatic stress disorder. The difficulties can last a long time, especially if they are rooted in childhood. Moreover, a child as well as an adult can suffer from this disorder.
Your primary care physician is the first person to consult.
It will help you to understand what is happening to you, but also to direct you to centers near you that specialize in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. There you will find qualified professionals who can work with you to find the best possible treatment solutions. It is never too late to be treated, but the sooner the better.
How to take care of yourself?
Are you close to someone experiencing PTSD and don't know how to respond?
Both children and adults can suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The signs are the same as for an adult: the child can relive the traumatic event without wanting to in the form of nightmares, flashes, thoughts. They may also avoid anything that reminds them of the traumatic event. They may also feel that they are always on the alert.
But the child may also have difficulty remembering important aspects of the event. He or she may refuse to go to school or sleep alone. He or she may wet the bed. He or she may lose interest in things that used to interest him or her, lose his or her appetite, or have trouble paying attention and concentrating.
He or she may also be in conflict with loved ones more often or feel guilty about what happened.
If these signs last for more than a month and the child is not able to return to his or her usual life at home or at school, it is time to consult a health professional to find help and support for the child and his or her family.
How do you care for a child with PTSD?
What about other psychotrauma?
We may have difficulty coping with a traumatic event and its consequences on our lives without experiencing the main warning signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (reliving, avoidance, hyper vigilance).
Indeed, we can develop other difficulties than PTSD after a traumatic event. It is important that we pay attention to our suffering without minimizing it because anything is possible in response to a traumatic event.
We can, for example, suffer from depression, develop phobias or addictions.
Sometimes our body will take over and express our distress through symptoms: we may feel stomach aches, migraines, skin reactions, etc.
This is called somatization. If these symptoms were already usual before the traumatic event, they can also suddenly worsen. It is then important to question ourselves to try to understand if these symptoms could be related to what we have experienced.
In all situations, we should not remain alone with our suffering: solutions to get better exist. The first step is to consult our general practitioner.