If you’re the victim of violence, you may be left with an aftermath of unpleasant symptoms. Intrusive thoughts, vivid flashbacks, panic attacks and feeling of distress can carry on long after the incident. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) refers to the symptoms that many people experience after a traumatic event. Your initial reaction will be shock, but even if you feel you have coped with the trauma, the symptoms of PTSD can develop and worsen over time.
Victims can suffer emotional, physical and behavioural symptoms as a result of violence. People often find themselves reliving the event. Understandably, this is very upsetting, so they develop ways of avoiding these memories – often by keeping busy.
Unfortunately, these repressed emotions and memories don’t go away by themselves. They can start manifesting themselves in the form of sleep disturbances, poor concentration and irritability. Anxious behaviours like extreme alertness (hyper vigilance) and mistrust of other people can also become a problem.
Suffering from PTSD is nothing to feel ashamed about: it is a natural response to a traumatic event. People develop their own coping strategies to deal with uncomfortable emotions, and these often work in the short term. However, although these coping strategies make you feel better at first, if left unchecked they can end up doing more harm than good. Over time they become habitual. A good example is always looking over your shoulder, and being unable to let your guard down after an attack. In fact, this is a very logical reaction to the event, but after a while, you may find that you are unable to relax at all.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) helps people to change the way they think about things (cognitive) and how they behave (behavioural). This kind of therapy is helpful for people suffering from PTSD, because it involves focussing on the present difficulties they are experiencing, instead of the traumatic event itself. The emphasis is on changing habitual negative patterns of thinking into positive ones for use in the here and now. It involves active participation on the part of the patient and it has proven to be highly effective.
If you think you may be suffering from PTSD, it’s worthwhile to talk to your GP about your symptoms and ask them about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Don’t let violence rule the rest of your life.