For the one million Australian’s experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) every year, the anxiety disorder is a largely misunderstood mental illness. PTSD Awareness Day (June 27 2019) aims to redirect the dialogue regarding post traumatic stress disorder, and spread awareness about the lived experience of those faced with it’s challenges.
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
PTSD is an anxiety condition, in which the fear or memory of a distressing event causes severe discomfort or disruption to a person’s normal mental, emotional or physical functioning. The symptoms of PTSD “can vary greatly, from subtle changes in day-to-day life, withdrawal and numbness, to distressing flashbacks or physical anxiety. The main symptoms of PTSD are:
- re-experiencing the trauma (memories, nightmares or flashbacks),
- avoiding reminders of the trauma,
- negative thoughts and mood,
- being very alert,
- and having a physical response to sudden changes that could be a sign of danger.” (1)
The Banyans Health and Wellness offers tailored programs for those experiencing PTSD, and understands that everybody’s experience of the condition is unique. Dr Anja Kriegeskotten is the lead Psychiatrist at The Banyans and has a special interest in trauma therapy. Dr Anja found herself especially interested in the EAGALA model of Equine Therapy. Equine Therapy is a research-based therapy shown to be highly beneficial for those seeking healing from PTSD and other complex traumas. The Banyans spoke to Dr Anja to debunk some of the most common misconceptions about post traumatic stress disorder.
Myth: A person develops post traumatic stress disorder after a near death experience.
Truth: “Although a near death experience is a traumatic event that can contribute to the development of PTSD, the trauma does not always have to be a threat on one’s life,” Dr Anja explains.
For example, PTSD can develop following experiences like “viewing or handling human remains; seeing someone badly injured or killed; interpersonal violence such as being mugged or sexually assaulted; or being unable to respond to a threatening situation.” (2)
Dr Anja also expresses that “the traumatic event does not need to happen to someone directly. Sometimes we see second hand PTSD. This is where someone develops anxiety after witnessing a trauma or hearing about it from somebody else.”
Myth: PTSD is rare, and is a threat mostly to those in the military.
Truth: Although two thirds of the population will experience a traumatic event in their lifetime, about only 12% of people develop diagnosable PTSD. (3).
Dr Anja suggests that statistically, there are some types of trauma that are more likely to lead to PTSD – some of which are encountered more frequently by those in a military role. “However, there are many triggers for PTSD that are not exclusive to those on the front lines,” she explains. “These could be accidents or interpersonal threats.”
Myth: People with PTSD cannot function in every day life because they are highly sensitive of their surroundings.
Truth: “PTSD can be a disabling experience, with many ripple effects on a person’s relationships, job and financial security and physical health,” Dr Anja empathises. “But those experiencing PTSD can have fulfilling and active lives with the right support, treatment and management techniques.”
A big part of life with post traumatic stress disorder is understanding a person’s “triggers” or things that set off their anxious responses. “Being able to recognise the events or situations that make you feel vulnerable and afraid is a big part of ensuring you have the correct strategies to navigate those moments,” Dr Anja advises.
She suggests keeping a diary of your anxiety and triggers. Then, discuss it with a registered health professional like a psychiatrist or psychologist.
PTSD is a disorder often co-occurring with other mental health conditions, like depression or substance misuse. Together, these conditions can be debilitating to a person’s sense of wellbeing and self-worth. “In any instance,” Dr Anja encourages, “it is crucial that people seek thorough, qualified help from a psychiatrist or psychologist specifically trained in trauma therapy.”
Myth: PTSD is a lifelong disorder.
Truth: Each person’s experience with PTSD is different, and no one can tell if complete recovery is possible. However, as Dr Anja already mentioned, there is always hope for a fulfilling and content life. If you or someone you love is experiencing PTSD, The Banyans can suggest several opportunities for seeking help.
Firstly, a private residential program at The Banyans Health and Wellness offers an individually tailored approach to PTSD recovery. Each therapy inclusion is research based, and has been shown to positively impact the mental and emotional health of PTSD survivors. In addition, programs at The Banyans equip people with practical tools and strategies for moving forward. Offering Psychiatry, Psychology, EMDR therapy, EAGALA Equine Assisted Therapy, Music Therapy, relationship counselling and more, The Banyans is Australia’s premium residential program for PTSD treatment.
Other support options include:
- Australian Defence Veterans All Hours Support Line, 1800 628 036;
- Beyond Blue, https://www.beyondblue.org.au/;
- Livin, an Australian organization aimed to help people find a program for a variety of mental health conditions;
- A local psychologist, hospital or charity program.
For further support and information about a recovery treatment program at The Banyans, submit a contact form below or call our team on +61 1300 BANYAN (1300 226 926).