What is PTSD?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - or PTSD - is most commonly associated with military trauma, such as combat, imprisonment, torture, atrocities, losing comrades. What used to be labeled 'shell shock' or 'combat fatigue' or 'war neurosis' or 'post-Vietnam syndrome' is now called PTSD.

However, the general public also can be exposed to serious trauma during natural disasters, terrorism, assault, rape, accidents, or any catastrophic events or life-threatening situations. Yes, civilians also can suffer from PTSD.

Symptoms
It is normal for victims to feel helpless, fearful, disconnected, numb, stuck in shock. But if such symptoms remain unchanged after several weeks, or become worse, they may lead to depression and increased anxiety, or to substance abuse or homelessness. The victims remain in psychological shock. This is PTSD. Victims often shy away from admitting it, fearing the attached stigma and lack of social support.

Treatment
Most people manage to recover from the initial trauma on their own within a matter of weeks or even days. But if victims continue to relive their trauma over and over, with increasing levels of anger, anxiety and depression, leading to deeper feelings of guilt or shame or even suicidal thoughts, often resulting in substance abuse, progressing into PTSD - then it's time to seek professional treatment.

PTSD is not a sign of weakness, and getting treatment is not a shame but a necessity. PTSD affects not only the victim but also family, friends and colleagues, and it certainly affects the physical and mental health of the victim. Therefore, the earlier treatment is started, the more beneficial it is for everyone concerned.

Methods of Treatment
There exists a whole range of coping strategies, from proper nutrition and exercise, to meditation or yoga or energy healing work. But stubborn PTSD often requires medical or pharmaceutical intervention, and counseling, before it reaches the suicidal stage.

Military PTSD sufferers have access to a network of Operational Stress Injury Clinics across Canada, working with the National Defense Operational Trauma and Stress Support Centres, developed by Veterans Affairs Canada.

Civilian PTSD sufferers may need trauma-focused psychotherapy and medication, to heal both body and mind, to be able to process the emotions caused by the original trauma. Family doctors will be able to recommend appropriate specialists.

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