By definition, PTSD arises when a person fails to recover after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. Clearly what people can perceive as terrifying varies greatly so triggers can vary greatly as well. And the length of time for a sufferers symptoms can vary hugely as well, with some lasting for weeks and others months or even years after an event. People diagnosed with PTSD will suffer from crippling emotional and physical reactions to memories of their trauma. These can occur in flashbacks, nightmares, avoidance of triggering situations, heightened reactivity to stimuli or external anxieties and they can occur without warning or can present in a predictive pattern.
People that have been diagnosed can have a vast range of traumas, however most commonly PTSD is triggered by events around serious accidents, physical or sexual assault, war or torture and disasters such as bushfire or flood. And it is really important to acknowledge that witnessing these events can also trigger PTSD and many sufferers have been bystanders to the afflictions of others and had massive PTSD fallout because of that.
Sufferers of PTSD usually experience four main types of difficulties:
Re-living the traumatic event: The person will relive or replay the event through unwanted memories or recall. They can be awake or asleep and they will experience intense and crippling emotional and physical reactions to these thoughts such as sweating, heart palpitations or panic attacks.
Being overtly wound up: A person with PTSD will be very unsettled. They may have trouble sleeping, feel irritable and/or lack concentration. They may have eating difficulties, become easily startled and be constantly on the lookout for danger.
Avoiding reminders of the event: A PTSD sufferer will deliberately avoid activities, places, people, thoughts or feelings associated with the event because they bring back painful memories or feelings associated with guilt and shame.
Feeling emotionally numb: The person loses interest in day-to-day activities. They will feel cut off and detached from family and friends and will feel emotionally flat and hopeless. To others, they will appear depressed and distant.
It is actually not uncommon for people suffering from PTSD to experience other mental health problems at the same time which may have developed in direct response to their traumatic event. These additional problems most commonly are depression, anxiety and alcohol or drug abuse.
Anyone can suffer from PTSD following a traumatic event, however people are at a greater risk if the event involved deliberate harm such as physical or sexual assault or if they have suffered repeated traumatic experiences such as childhood abuse or living in a war zone. Pretty much any ongoing trauma or stressful event can constitute an episode of PTSD especially if there was an absence of social support at the time of the event.
Current statistics estimate that in Australia we have a very high occurrence of PTSD. We are actually one of the the top 5 countries in the world for PTSD with around 12% of the population suffering from some form of PTSD in their lifetimes, which will more than likely be linked to a serous accident. Women are also twice as likely to suffer from this disorder than men and this may be linked to the fact that women are also more likely to suffer sexual assault than men, however it is also important to recognise that PTSD symptoms do not always show up immediately after a traumatic event. Some victims have shown symptoms up to two years after a traumatic event with their symptoms only surfacing after another event triggers their stress reaction.
It is also interesting to note that recent studies have shown that people living in first world countries are more likely to suffer from PTSD than people living in third world countries. It seems paradoxical, but it appears that PTSD is linked to something that violates your expectations. If you live in a part of the world that is basically safe and then something happens to turn those ideas around then it is harder to get over and your trauma will be deeper.
The good new is that help is readily available to suffers of PTSD and a visit to a local GP will certainly get the ball rolling on effective treatment and support. The three main types of therapy that are used to support sufferers are:
- Psychological treatments (talk therapy) - eg. trauma focused cognitive behavioural therapy, eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing.
- Physical treatments (medications) - eg. antidepressants such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
- Self Help therapy - eg. mindfulness, relaxation therapy and exercise.
If you suspect that you or anyone around you is suffering from PTSD I recommend that you start by checking out the Phoenix Australia website. Phoenix is the centre for posttraumatic mental health in Australia and they are dedicated to reducing the levels of trauma in sufferers by building capabilities within individuals and communities to enhance understanding, prevention and recovery processes. They have put together some incredibly useful resources, online toolkits and support materials for sufferers and it is a great place to start if you are seeking more information or help around the topic of PTSD.
Release Date: 2020
Rating: MA 15+
Running Time: 93 mins
A psychological thriller/ horror written and directed by Remi Weekes and adapted from a story by Felicity Evans and Toby Venables. This thought provoking film was released on Netflix in October 2020 and it delivers enough creepy atmosphere and contemplation to appease any horror loving audience.
Bol and Rial are recent British refugees from South Sudan. They are placed into a run down government housing estate where they attempt to assimilate, but the trauma of their lives in South Sudan and the loss of their daughter haunts them and life becomes a constant battle.
This film is clearly an allegory to victims of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and it is delivered in an eerie, unique and claustrophobic manner that felt reminiscent of other clever psychological thrillers like The Babadook.
The acting here is rock solid with Wunmi Mosaku and Sope Dirisu both delivering plausible and emotional portrayals of a couple desperately trying to manage their trauma. The storyline is scary and also deeply intriguing, and by the end of it all I felt quite moved and affected; this film really does leave you thinking.
FINAL SAY: Your ghosts follow you. They never leave.
3.5 Chilli Peppers