Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

In life, we experience many different types of events. Some are happy and positive; others may be distressing and even scary. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder that can occur after you have been through a traumatic event.

A traumatic event can be something that you see or that happens to you. During this event, you may feel like your life or the lives of others are in danger. You may feel afraid or not in control of what is happening in that moment.

What causes PTSD?

PTSD can develop when a person experiences trauma in a direct or indirect way. For example, a person who has experienced a life-threatening event may develop PTSD. But you don’t have to go through a traumatic event to have PTSD. Sometimes, learning that a traumatic event has happened to a loved one or someone you care about can cause PTSD.

Traumatic events can include:

  • Physical violence or sexual violence.
  • Serious injuries, such as from a car accident.
  • Natural disasters, such as a fire, tornado, flood, or earthquake.
  • Being sent to a combat zone; living in or near an area affected by conflict, such as war; or terrorist attacks.
  • Life-threatening illnesses, such as cancer.
  • Major life events that cause significant forms of grief and loss, including divorce, bankruptcy, loss of significant relationships or material goods.
  • Negative interactions with authority figures, such as law enforcement, social workers, or others.
  • Abuse experienced during childhood or as an adult.
  • Intergenerational trauma.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

There are certain things you may experience after going through a traumatic event. You may start to feel upset by things that remind you of what happened or have nightmares, vivid memories and flashbacks. It could feel like the event is happening all over again. This may cause you to avoid things and places that remind you of the event.

A person experiencing PTSD may begin to feel down about themselves and the world, anxious or panicky, numb, irritated or jittery, and have trouble sleeping. You might feel like you are constantly in danger when you’re not and begin to withdraw from certain activities or people in your life.

The development of PTSD can change your behaviour and how you live. But there are things that can help you to feel better.

What can you do if you think you have PTSD?

If you believe you may be experiencing PTSD, it’s important to reach out for help. It’s never too late to get back to feeling better again. Your symptoms don't have to interfere with your everyday activities, work, and relationships. Early support and treatment may help reduce long-term symptoms.

Let a loved one or friend know what you are going through. Speak with your family doctor to figure out the best type of support for you. Counselling and/or medications could help you to manage symptoms.

If you're a veteran, contact Veterans Affairs Canada, toll-free at 1-800-268-7708, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for free and confidential mental health support.

If you have thoughts about hurting yourself or someone else, call 9-1-1, or go to a hospital emergency room.

Resources

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HealthLink BC (8-1-1)

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