Traumatic experiences can lead to sustained distressing and sometimes disabling symptoms that last long after the initial traumatic event or events.
PTSD is commonly seen in Service men and women returning after deployment. Often the symptoms and the condition go unacknowledged by the person. People in the Police Service, Paramedics, Fire Fighters and the general public also experience PTSD symptoms in response to traumatic episodes in their professional or personal lives.
Frequently it is the partner or significant others who recognise the changes. The visible changes are often increased irritability or anger, relationship difficulties and substance abuse.
Common symptoms include nightmares (waking up sweating, disturbed bed clothes, calling out, thrashing around), hyper-vigilance (especially in public), increased anxiety in crowded places (such as shopping centres), flashbacks or intrusive thoughts of past trauma, avoidance of situations reminding the person of past trauma, and exaggerated startle response. There is also often co-morbid depression and at times substance abuse as a way of “self-medicating.” Problems with concentration and short term memory are not uncommon.
PTSD is a severe condition that requires expert assessment and treatment. It places stress on relationships and reduces capacity to function, including the ability to work. There is also an increased risk of suicide.