Living With: PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is, as the name suggests, an anxiety disorder that stems from a traumatic event. The disorder is most commonly associated with veterans of war but anyone that is exposed to a traumatic event such as an assault (50% of people who are sexually assaulted develop PTSD), robbery or car accident can develop symptoms. 3 in 100 people globally will suffer from PTSD in some form over the course of their lives making it one of the more common mental disorders yet it remains one of the least understood by the general public, myself included.

My friend Steph, who is currently in in-patient care for PTSD, very kindly agreed to answer some questions for me to present to you. She does a fantastic job of explaining the condition so without further ado lets get into the questions:      

“-What are the symptoms that you suffer?

There’s a set criteria about the symptoms you need to be diagnosed with PTSD and although everyone has different traumas, the criteria remains the same. The symptoms I suffer from the most are flashbacks where I relive the events each time, nightmares/ night terrors, hypervigilance meaning in constantly alert and on guard, suicidal thoughts and behaviour particularly after a flashback, depression as well as feeling numb, avoiding thinking about the trauma and everything that reminds me of it and dissociation.

– What medications are available to treat the symptoms? Do you take any? Have you found them helpful?

At the moment I’m prescribed Mirtazapine for the high levels of depression, Pregabalin which is supposed to prevent flashbacks and Clonazepam for agitation/anxiety. Generally most patients are given an anti depressant but there is no effective treatment other than talking therapies.

-One symptom of PTSD which I really don’t think is understood is dissociation. Dissociation is detachment from reality for the readers at home that might not know. Can you tell me about your experiences with dissociation? How does it feel and what can be done to treat it?

Dissociation is very frightening. The two that stand out the most are quite severe. The first one I was found walking the streets at 4am in just my pyjamas, no shoes or anything. When the police found me, I couldn’t remember my name or anything about myself. The second time I ended up taking 17g of medication prescribed for my horse called phenylbutazone which caused serious liver damage for a long time. I don’t remember either of these events as during those times and other dissociative states, I lose touch with reality and its like I’m not really there. Its a strange event.

-Trigger warnings are often used in the treatment of PTSD. What are your thoughts on the introduction of trigger warnings into mainstream media? Do you think it’s a good idea?

I personally don’t find trigger warnings helpful as I am able to disconnect from the environment but everyone is different. What works for one may not work for another.

– Obviously if someone is experiencing PTSD symptoms it is best for them to go to the doctor but if there is a waiting list for mental health treatment in their area what can people do themselves to try to calm the symptoms?

Honestly I can’t answer that one. I didn’t manage to cope with my symptoms resulting in attempts on my life so I’m not really sure how people can get help themselves. Everyone has different traumas so it really is difficult to answer that one. The only bit of advice is don’t go through it alone, tell someone. A friend, a family member, anyone. Its not something you need to go through alone.

-What would you say to someone who has a loved one suffering PTSD? What can they do to help?

Give them space when they ask for it as well as being there for them when they also ask for it. Sometimes it becomes overwhelming when people try to get information out of you when you really need time to deal with your thoughts. But its equally important you let the person know that you are there for them when they’re ready to talk. Its always helpful to know people are thinking about you.”

As with all the conditions we have covered so far in this series and as with all to come; it is important to not go through these things alone. Talking therapies are the best remedies and it’s super important to have a good network of support behind you. If you are reading this and you are suffering from any of the symptoms Steph mentioned in the first question then please do consult a doctor.

Massive, massive, massive thanks to Steph for volunteering to do this! I wish you the speediest of recoveries and the passenger seat of Quasimodo is always available to you… Even if you just want to sit on it on my driveway haha!

Thanks for reading folks

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