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An Introduction to PTSD

TW: Physical Abuse, Rape

What is PTSD?

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed traumatic experiences such as:

  • Natural disaster

  • Serious accident

  • Terrorist act

  • War

  • Rape, sexual violence

  • Threatened with death

  • Abuse, assault


  • About 3.5% of adults have PTSD in a given year and 9% of people develop it at some point in their life in the USA

  • More common in women than men

  • Higher rates may occur in regions of armed conflict

Common Symptoms of PTSD

Reliving aspects of trauma

  • Vivid flashbacks and feeling like the trauma is happening now

  • Intrusive thoughts/images

  • Nightmares

  • Intense distress at real/symbolic reminders of trauma

  • Physical sensations such as pain, sweating, nausea and trembling

Alertness or feeling on edge

  • Panicking when reminded of trauma

  • Being easily agitated or upset

  • Hypervigilance

  • Disturbed sleep or insomnia

  • Aggressive behaviour

  • Hard to concentrate on anything

  • Easily startled

Avoiding feelings or memories

  • Feeling like you have to busy yourself

  • Avoiding anything that reminds you of trauma

  • Not being able to remember details of it

  • Feeling emotionally / physically numb

  • Not being able to express affection

  • Doing things that could be self-destructive or reckless

  • Using alcohol/drugs to forget memories

Difficult beliefs or feelings

  • Feeling like you can’t trust anyone

  • Feeling like nowhere is safe

  • Feeling like nobody understands

  • Blaming yourself for what happened

  • Overwhelming feelings

Some ways to self-cope with PTSD

  • Practice simple deep breathing routines to improve breathing and combat anxiety

  • Using progressive muscle relaxation exercises to alternate between tensing and relaxing different muscle groups throughout body

  • Meditate to help you get out of your head and in touch with the present

  • Self-monitor to increase awareness

  • Seek social support from a professional

Managing PTSD

  • Counselling

    • Cognitive behavioural therapy (seeks to change the way a person feels and acts by changing patterns of thinking and behaviour)

    • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (form of psychotherapy — eye movement can be used to facilitate emotional processing of memories)

    • Medication (sertraline/fluoxetine/paroxetine/venlafaxine have been shown to have a small to modest benefit over placebo)

How To Help Someone With PTSD


  • Provide social support

    • Encourage them to seek out friends, pursue hobbies that bring them pleasure

    • Be patient and positive to maintain support for them

    • Educate yourself about PTSD

  • Be a good listener

    • If they decide to share their feelings with you, listen without expectations or judgements

    • Make it clear that you’re interested and that you care

    • Listen attentively


  • Pressure them into talking

  • Give easy answers/tell them that everything will be okay

  • Stop them from expressing their feelings

  • Offer advice or tell them what to do

  • Blame your relationship/family problems on their PTSD

  • Invalidate their traumatic experience

PTSD Case Study

Matt Lammers is an American veteran of the Iraq War and has suffered from PTSD since then. Lammers lost both his legs and his left arm after his car hit an explosive while deployed in Iraq. When he and his wife, Alicia first got married, he wasn’t getting treated for his PTSD and was acting like he’s still at war and insisted that Alicia prepare for war as well. Lammers started to train Alicia by waking her up in the middle of the night, and showing her how to shoot and reload magazines. This manipulation then turns abusive and Matt gets violent. After a while, another disabled veteran who also has PTSD comes to help Matt. They decided to share their story with others to encourage them not to suffer alone and to get help if needed.


"What Is PTSD? - American Psychiatric ...."

"Post-traumatic stress disorder - Wikipedia."

Writer: Christiane Au, Editor: Hailey Wong, Thumbnail: Bernice Lam, Text Transcription: Megan Kwok


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