What is PTSD?
While there is growing awareness around trauma and PTSD, there is still more work to be done in understanding complex trauma and C-PTSD.
Trauma is generally considered to be an individual’s response to a singular traumatic event (e.g. an assault, witnessing a serious accident, losing a loved one or experiencing a natural disaster) over which the person has had little control.
PTSD can occur when the person’s emotions around that event become so overwhelming that they are unable to cope.
The symptoms of PTSD commonly include:
- Re-living the trauma (i.e. flashbacks or nightmares)
- Avoiding reminders of the event (e.g. public places, strangers, driving, etc.)
- Negative changes in thoughts and mood
- Constantly feeling ‘on edge’.
What is C-PTSD?
Complex PTSD (C-PTSD) can occur after prolonged and repeated trauma (e.g. domestic violence/abuse or working in a dangerous job).
The main difference between the two is that a person who experiences a single traumatic event may be able to regain a sense of safety when they are no longer in danger. Fear is not their ‘norm’.
Whereas, a person who experiences repeated trauma may feel unsafe for a prolonged period (even years), so their ‘norm’ becomes fear and they live in a constant state of fight or flight.
People living with C-PTSD have also commonly experienced childhood trauma or abuse, altering their perception of what ‘safe’ and ‘normal’ feel like into adulthood.
People with C-PTSD commonly experience the symptoms of PTSD, in addition to the following symptoms:
- Difficulty expressing emotions (e.g. explosive anger or constant sadness)
- Negative self-belief (accompanied by helplessness, guilt or shame)
- Difficulty maintaining healthy relationships
- Ongoing feelings of emptiness.
PTSD in Service Personnel
ANYONE has the potential to be exposed to trauma and/or develop C/PTSD.
However, due to the nature of their work, Australia’s service personnel (military, police and emergency services) are particularly susceptible.
Around 90% of ADF members will experience at least one traumatic event throughout their life, compared to 73% of the general population. Around 8.3% of ADF members will experience PTSD in a 12-month period, compared with 5.2% of the general population.
The rate of PTSD in Australian police is around 20%.
Emergency Services personnel are more likely than any other profession to be injured or assaulted at work. Around 8% suffer from PTSD, while 21% have anxiety and 27% have depression.
These alarmingly high statistics represent a tragic irony for the people who work so hard to protect everyone else.
Treatment for C/PTSD
The main form of treatment for C-PTSD is long-term therapy from a Psychologist and/or Psychiatrist who gets to know the individual.
Mediation may sometimes be prescribed by a Psychiatrist.
People with C/PTSD often experience co-morbidities such as addiction, eating disorders, anxiety or depression – it’s important that these conditions are also treated.
Additionally, it is important for the person to access support from family, friends, fellow survivors or workmates to normalise their experience and reduce stigma.
It is also important to minimise other stressors in their life and focus on recovery.
Natural therapies are also reported to greatly reduce symptoms.
Barriers to Seeking Treatment
Common barriers to seeking treatment (particularly for this group) include:
- Perceived stigma around mental health issues
- A toxic workplace culture that perpetuates gender stereotypes
- Survivor guilt or guilt for being unable to stop the event
- Bottling up emotions that are too difficult or painful to process
- Shame around seeking help
- Organisational failure to provide adequate support.
Gentle reminder: “It ain’t weak to speak!”
The Effects of Trauma
Trauma can actually create physical changes in a person’s brain, creating unhelpful ways of thinking, feeling and believing about the world and themselves.
A person with C/PTSD may develop coping mechanisms in an attempt to ‘manage’ their overwhelming emotions and negative thought patterns.
These coping mechanisms may look ‘healthy’ (e.g. using humour), or obviously concerning (e.g. addiction, accepting/dispensing abuse or even violence).
While the behaviour of the person might not be OK and you should never tolerate violence or abuse, it can be helpful to understand WHY this behaviour is occurring.
This can help to initiate the conversation, “Are you OK?”
Acknowledging that there is a problem is the first step towards seeking help and dealing with the root cause.
How Can You Help Someone with C/PTSD?
It is unfair to expect a person who has experienced trauma to view life through the same lens as they once did or that a trauma-free person would.
It is never helpful to judge the experiences of others, ‘compare’ traumas, place your own expectations on the person or tell them to “get over it”. This can be extremely damaging to the person, complicate their trauma and delay their recovery process.
There is no right time or way in which a person ‘should’ heal. However, with the right support, the wounds of trauma CAN heal.
Where To Find Help
Professional help is available 24 hours a day through Lifeline and Beyond Blue if you need to talk to someone at any time.
If you are struggling, please seek support – whether it is from a GP, good friend or mental health professional.
I would love to support any Australian Defence Force (ADF) Personnel, Veterans and their families in their journeys towards mental health & wellness.
I also offer a range of modalities including Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Hypnosis, Time Line Therapy®, Access Bars® and Life Coaching and can work together with your support team to maintain continuity of support.
Free Treatment Offer
- 3 FULL CLINIC DAYS FOR ADF PERSONNEL, VETERANS & FAMILIES.
- Clinics will be held on-site at your location (e.g. RSL or military base).
- 2 full clinic days would be allocated to adults.
- 1 full clinic day would be allocated to children.
- This will include Access Bars™ treatment only.
- Additional appointments would be available at a reduced rate.
BONUS: One additional FREE trial session for the on-site decision-maker to experience this treatment first-hand.
For more information please visit www.purposefullife.com.au. To make an appointment, please phone on 0481 877 860 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep safe and always take care.