Psychmed is committed to providing the best possible treatment to survivors of trauma and abuse. Psychmed offers assessment and trauma-focussed treatment for adults, adolescents, and children who have experienced trauma. We provide cognitive processing therapy and other evidence-based approaches for individuals and groups. PsychMed conducted a pilot program, in collaboration with Flinders University, and subsequently, an Australian-first 7 year community based trial, funded by the Commonwealth Government, in cognitive processing therapy. This is now recognised in national guidelines as a leading evidence-based therapy.
A traumatic event is an event that causes physical, emotional, or psychological harm. Traumatic events are powerful and upsetting events that can impact and intrude on your day-to-day functioning. During a traumatic event you may not have had control over what was happening to you and you may have felt horrified, terrified, and helpless. Traumatic events can include experiences such as sexual and/or physical assault, domestic violence, death of a loved one, motor vehicle accidents, natural disasters or war. Trauma can take different forms, for example, a traumatic event may be something that happened to you, or, it may be something that you saw happen to someone else (e.g., being a first responder after a fatal car accident). While many individuals will go on to naturally recover, some individuals develop traumatic responses such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
You are not alone. Going through a traumatic event is not rare and almost half of Australians have experienced a traumatic event during their lifetime. Of those who have experienced trauma, approximately 1 in 10 men, and 2 in 10 women will go on to develop PTSD. Trauma can impact people in many different ways. Trauma can have physical, cognitive (thinking), behavioural, emotional, and interpersonal effects.
- Being much more alert and on guard
- Being easily startled
- Feeling fatigued and exhausted
- Reduced or broken sleep
- Tension, headaches, nausea
- Reduced appetite
- Feeling jittery or keyed up
- Finding it hard to relax
- Feeling as though you are always on the lookout for danger
- Irritability and agitation
- Intrusive thoughts
- Rumination about the traumatic event
- Visual images of the event
- Reduced concentration and memory
- Difficulties making decisions
- Confusion, mind going blank, disorientation
- Negative self-talk or negative thoughts: Self-blame, Self-criticalness, Worthlessness, Thoughts that the world and people are dangerous, Thoughts that people cannot be trusted, Thoughts of harming yourself or others
- Avoidance of places and/or activities that are reminders of the traumatic event(s)
- Trying to keep yourself busy as a means of avoiding thoughts and feeling related to the traumatic event(s)
- Reduced interest and enjoyment in normal activities
- Smoking, abusing drugs and alcohol, aggression
- Angry outbursts
- Engaging in self-harming behaviours or acting in more impulsive and risky ways
- Isolation, reduced activity, more time spent in bed or on the couch
- Anger and irritability
- Numbness and detachment
- Anger, distress, and panic
- Pulling away from family and friends
- Work related problems
- Family and relationship discord
How do I know if I have PTSD?
The only way to know for sure is to speak to with a mental health care professional (e.g., psychologist). They will ask you about your trauma, your symptoms, and any other problems you have to help determine if you have PTSD. If you think that you might have PTSD, you may want to complete the screening tool below.
Sometimes things happen to people that are unusually or especially frightening, horrible, or traumatic. For example, a serious accident or fire, a physical or sexual assault or abuse, an earthquake or flood, a war, seeing someone be killed or seriously injured, or having a loved one die through homicide or suicide.
Have you experienced this kind of event?
If yes, please answer the questions below. In the past month, have you:
- Had nightmares about the event(s) or thought about the event(s) when you didn’t want to?
- Tried hard not to think about the event(s) or went out of your way to avoid situations that reminded you of the event(s)?
- Been constantly on guard, watchful, or easily startled?
- Felt numb or detached from people, activities, or your surroundings?
- Felt guilty or unable to stop blaming yourself or others for the event(s) or any other problems the event(s) may have caused?
If you answered “yes” to 3 or more of these questions, talk to a health care professional to learn more about PTSD and PTSD treatment.
Please remember that answering “yes” to 3 or more questions does not mean you have PTSD. Only a health care professional can tell you that for sure. Also, even if the screening tool says that you don’t have PTSD, you may still want to talk to a mental health care professional.
What do I do if I have symptoms of PTSD, and when to seek professional assistance?
In the aftermath of a trauma it is very normal to think, act, and feel differently and many people will start to feel better a few weeks after a traumatic event. That is, some people will work through their anxiety and will not develop PTSD. However, for some people their response to trauma can be incapacitating, and treatment from a professional is needed to help them recover. Warning signs that you should speak with your doctor or a mental health care professional include:
- If your symptoms last longer than a month
- If your symptoms are very upsetting and disrupt your daily life
- Feeling numb and empty
- Having relationship and work problems
- Having no one to support you, or having now one you can share your feelings with
- Continuing to feel tense, agitated, irritable, or on edge
- Continued disturbed sleep, nightmares, flashbacks, and/or intrusive thoughts
- Increasing your use of alcohol or drugs
- Thoughts of self-harm
Why should I get treatment for PTSD?
Treatment works and you do not need to live with the symptoms of trauma for forever. There are many treatment options for PTSD and these treatments have been proven to help people with PTSD. For some, treatment can get rid of symptoms completely and for others, treatment allows them to have much fewer and less intense symptoms. After treatment many individuals report having a better quality of life. When PTSD is not treated it usually does not get better by itself. In fact, it may even get worse. It can be tempting to think that PTSD will just go away over time, however, this is unlikely. Especially if you have had PTSD for over a year. Getting treatment can help reduce your PTSD symptoms and can help keep PTSD from causing problems in your relationships, your career, and education.
What if it has been a really long time since my trauma?
It is never too late to get treatment for PTSD. Even if your trauma happened many years ago, or during childhood, treatment can still be very helpful. If you have tried treatment before and you still have symptoms, it is a good idea to try treatment again.
What if I don’t feel ready for treatment?
It is very normal to feel as though you are not ready for treatment, or believe that you are not ready to talk about what has happened to you. You may find that you can easily come up with reasons why now isn’t the right time for treatment – like I don’t have the time, I can keep managing this way, treatment won’t work anyway. But not wanting to talk about the trauma is actually one of the symptoms of PTSD. It may be that you never truly feel ready to get help for PTSD and trauma. But, if you have symptoms, the sooner you get treatment the sooner you can feel better.