PTSD Counselling Melbourne

What is PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a particular set of stress reactions, which develop in people who have witnessed or experienced traumatic events at some point of time in their lives. These traumatic events may be like death, serious injury, car accidents, sexual or physical assault, military combat, torture or war, or disasters like floods or bushfires that have actually threatened their safety or life or of the people who have been around them.

PTSD can happen after a person has been through one traumatic event, or after repeated exposures to traumatic events. Sometimes, PTSD can develop after hearing details about multiple devastating and traumatic events. This is a common experience amongst emergency workers.

PTSD symptoms can be persistent and severe enough to significantly impair an individual’s daily life. PTSD often occurs in conjunction with other related mental disorders such as depression, substance abuse, and problems with memory and cognition.

It is therefore important to seek help to manage PTSD at its early stages.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

The symptoms of PTSD are generally characterised into 3 categories:

  1. Hyper-Arousal: This is an unpleasant perception where an individual feels quite hyper-aware about every stimuli. The person is aware of every little sound, is hyper-vigilant, gets irritated & angry often and startles easily. It is hard for the person to concentrate. The hyper-arousal symptoms are crescendo from mild anxiety to a full fledged fight or even a panic attack, which sends someone to emergency room.
  2.  Avoidance/Numbing: The individual tries to avoid all kinds of thoughts, situations & feelings, which reminds him/her of the trauma. This basically makes the person’s world smaller as he or she works to avoid all of the traumatic cues. A lot of energy is used when he or she tries not to think about the traumatic event. The emotional affect is flattened and the person senses that his/her future is fore-shortened.
  3. Intrusive Recollection: These are unpleasant feelings and thoughts that are related to a trauma. They may include recurring bad dreams, nightmares or flashbacks. In flashbacks, a person feels that he/she is right back in the middle of trauma once again.

As per Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 5th edition (DSM-V), PTSD symptoms are generally grouped in five clusters. One or more symptoms are needed from every cluster for the patient to get a full diagnosis done.

The clusters are:

  1. Stressor (one needed):
    The individual was exposed to severe life threatening illness, injury or violence. This can include at least any one amongst the following:
    • witnessing the trauma
    • direct exposure to trauma
    • learning that someone very close you have undergone the trauma
    • being the first responder to trauma like firefighter, police, crisis counselor or medic.
  2.  Intrusion symptoms (one needed):
    The individual who was exposed to trauma re-experiences it through different ways like:
    • intense and distressing memories
    • physical reactions or distress after becoming exposed to reminders, called ‘triggers’
    • nightmares
    • flashbacks
  3. Unpleasant changes to thoughts or mood (two needed):
    • lessened interest in all those things that were of great interest
    • blaming self or other people for the traumatic incident
    • negatuve feelings & thoughts about self & the whole world
    • having a hard time feeling positive
    • unable to remember trauma clearly
    • negative affect & having difficulty in being positive
    • feeling of being isolated
  4. Avoidance (one needed):
    This happens when the individual tries avoiding all kinds of reminders of the trauma that he/she has been exposed to or witnessed, including:
    • avoiding all kinds of external reminders of what had occurred
    • avoiding any trauma-related emotion or thought, sometimes through usage of alcohol or drugs
  5. Changes in Reactivity (two needed):
    This happens when an individual becomes startled easily and reacts to frightful experiences fully, including symptoms of:
    • irritability or aggression hyper-awareness and hyper-vigilance
    • difficulty sleeping or being asleep
    • difficulty concentrating 
    • engaging in risky or destructive behaviour
    • increased startle response

According to DSM-V, all symptoms should have persisted for a minimum of one month and they should be causing functional impairment or distress of some type. These symptoms shouldn’t be related to substance use, medications or illness.

All of the above symptoms sap a person's energy. Aside from either witnessing or experiencing trauma, the person now has to deal with a host of unpleasant symptoms. These symptoms may bring about multiple mental health issues (such as depression, anxiety, insomnia etc.) which may be too overwhelming for the person. As a result, the person may feel that he / she is not able to cope with his / her day-to-day life and eventually, over time, become angry at him / herself and project this anger towards his / her loved ones.

What is Complex PTSD (CPTSD)?

Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) describes the more severe and long-term condition that can occur after prolonged and repeated trauma (PTSD), particularly in childhood.

Symptoms of CPTSD are similar to the symptoms of PTSD.

If left untreated, PTSD can develop into CPTSD and cause long-term problems with memory and disrupt the development of a person’s identity and their ability to control emotions and form meaningful relationships with others.

It is therefore important to seek help to manage PTSD at its early stages before it develops into CPTSD.

PTSD & Anger Management

The symptoms of PTSD and CPTSD often overlap with one another and you may find that feeling depressed and anxious are also causing you to feel angry (and vice versa).

Anger is a very common emotion experienced by PTSD sufferers. Quite often, there is no simple solution, as such, because this anger often has multiple layers and causes.

For example, someone who has been in an automobile accident (in which they were not at fault) may experience intense anger towards the at-fault driver, especially if the person has sustained long-term injuries (and been through lengthy court proceedings) that have affected and negatively impact upon them for the rest of their lives. Over time, this anger then grows, festers and becomes directed internally at oneself and / or externalised and projected towards the affected person’s family members and loved ones.

Anger can manifest and be exhibited within the family or at the workplace. It is usually at this stage when the anger gets out of control that people begin to recognise that they need help managing their anger. Alternatively, concerned family members, friends or colleagues may also reach out to seek help for their loved one/s.

Treatment of PTSD when there are other problems

Often, people with PTSD will also be experiencing one or more other conditions at the same time. When planning your treatment, your health professional needs to consider any other mental health conditions you may be experiencing, like depression and anxiety. PTSD can occur with other problems like depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, anger and hostility, drug and alcohol abuse, work absence due to sickness etc.

Please ensure you inform your health professional of any other mental health conditions or medical problems (such as diabetes, obesity, heart problems, etc.) you are currently experiencing (or have experienced).

Please contact us to make an appointment for PTSD or trauma counselling in Melbourne.

PTSD Counselling Melbourne