Understanding the silent struggle: Exploring the symptoms and impact of PTSD

Jun 27, 2023
Recognising the signs and symptoms of PTSD is a crucial step towards reclaiming one's well-being and seeking help that is readily available. Source: Getty Images.

Do you find yourself reluctant to go to sleep due to haunting nightmares or distressing terrors? Are you experiencing a sense of detachment from your partner? Do you prefer solitude as it removes the burden of articulating your emotional state? Do certain triggers transport you back to the harrowing memory of a traumatic event? These experiences could potentially indicate the presence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The human mind is a complex landscape, shaped by experiences that can leave lasting imprints. PTSD is a haunting presence that emerges from traumatic events, disrupting the equilibrium of the mind and casting a shadow over the lives of its sufferers. While commonly associated with war zones, PTSD’s reach extends far beyond, affecting individuals from all walks of life.

In fact, PTSD is the most common mental health condition in Australia after depression, but it’s often left undiagnosed and untreated. And while not everyone who experiences trauma will develop PTSD, about 5-10 per cent of Australians will suffer from PTSD at some point in their lives.

This means that at any one time, over 1 million Australians have PTSD. Many people that have PTSD don’t realise they have it, and only half of those affected will seek treatment.

The effects of PTSD can cause problems for older people, especially when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. In addition, research indicates that older individuals with PTSD are also more likely to experience other mental health issues, like depression and anxiety.

In an effort to shed light on PTSD as part of National Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day, Starts at 60 explores the signs to look out for, and highlights available support resources, while examining the impact of PTSD.

Causes of PTSD

PTSD can be caused by a variety of factors. One of the main triggers is experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. The severity and duration of the trauma, as well as personal vulnerability and a lack of support, can increase the risk of developing PTSD.

Ongoing stress and difficulties coping after the trauma can also contribute. Additionally, changes in the brain’s structure and function are believed to play a role. Understanding these causes is important for preventing and treating PTSD effectively.

Traumatic events are common, and most people will experience at least one during their lives.

Director of Pheonix Australia, a world-recognised organisation with expertise in trauma-related mental health research and treatment, Professor David Forbes said PTSD can result from the sudden death of a loved one, witnessing or being a part of a traumatic event, or even hearing about a traumatic
event happening to a loved one.

“Australians have experienced the environmental disaster impacts of bushfires, floods, drought, and storms, as well as the impacts of trauma resulting from workplace incidents, family violence, road accidents and emergency services work,” Forbes explains.

“Now more than ever, it’s important to understand how much adversity, stress and trauma can affect our mental and physical health.”

While many individuals manage to overcome these challenges with the assistance of their loved ones, some may require additional support to navigate the aftermath of trauma. Therefore recognising the signs of PTSD becomes essential in identifying those who may benefit from additional assistance.

Recognising the signs of PTSD

Recognising the signs and symptoms of PTSD is a crucial step towards reclaiming one’s well-being and seeking help that is readily available. It is important to remember that experiencing PTSD does not signify weakness or failure; it is a valid response to traumatic events.

Symptoms of PTSD can include:

  • Reliving the event through unwanted memories.
  • Flashbacks or nightmares.
  • Avoiding places, people or activities that bring back the event.
  • Having negative emotions such as fear, anger, guilt or numbness.
  • Being constantly alert for danger.
  • Being easily startled.
  • Taking risks.

By familiarising ourselves with these signs, we can be better equipped to support and guide those who may be suffering from PTSD toward appropriate help and treatment.

Tips for recovering from trauma

Recovering from trauma is a deeply personal and often challenging journey, but with the right strategies and support, healing and resilience are possible.

Whether you have personally endured a traumatic event or are seeking to assist someone in their recovery, these evidence-based suggestions will provide valuable guidance for navigating the path toward healing, rebuilding a sense of safety, and reclaiming a fulfilling life.

  • Recognise that you have been through something awful, and give yourself permission to feel how you feel, but also remember your strengths and have confidence you will get through it.
  • Rest, even if you can’t sleep, and eat nutritious meals and exercise. Physical and mental health are linked.
  • Plan your days, and schedule at least one pleasurable or meaningful activity for each.
  • Avoid making major life decisions in the weeks after the event, but make as many small decisions as you can to restore your feeling of control.
  • If you are still having difficulties more than two weeks after the event, contact your GP for further help.

If you suspect that you or a loved one may be experiencing PTSD, it’s essential to seek professional help. There are various avenues available for support, including:

  • Mental Health Professionals: Consulting a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, who specialises in trauma and PTSD can provide a thorough assessment and guide you towards appropriate treatment options.
  • Support Groups: Connecting with others who have experienced similar traumas can offer a sense of belonging and understanding. Local community centers, veterans’ organizations, or online platforms can help you find support groups tailored to your needs.
  • Helplines and Hotlines: Many organisations offer helplines or hotlines where you can speak to trained professionals who can provide immediate support and guidance. These services are often available 24/7 and can be an invaluable resource during times of crisis.

Phoenix Australia’s website has advice for people suffering from trauma and resources for the health professionals treating them, and also offers online and in-person training for individuals and organisations.

By understanding the signs of PTSD and acknowledging their impact on our lives, we empower ourselves to take proactive measures. Seeking professional assistance from therapists or support groups can provide invaluable guidance and support on the path to recovery. Remember, reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness but a courageous act of self-care, paving the way for healing, resilience, and a brighter future ahead.

If you or anyone you know needs help: Lifeline — 13 11 14; MensLine Australia — 1300 789 978; BeyondBlue — 1300 224 636; Suicide Call Back Service — 1300 659 467; Headspace — 1800 650 890; Kids Helpline — 1800 551 800.






IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

Leave your comment

Please sign in to post a comment.
Retrieving conversation…
Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up