Last week, we established the definition of trauma and shared what causes it, and symptoms around it. Please find it here
Today, my emphasis would be on post-traumatic stress disorder.
Basically, trauma is classified into three types to aid differentiation. A trauma could be short or a lasting event reoccurring over a long time, a fateful event that happened by chance or is caused by another human being, or the collective trauma that may affect a general populace, such as a war, tribal clashes, and some natural disasters.
Regardless of the class of trauma, one thing is constant: it is devastating. And rarely leave the victim the same.
The victim of a trauma may seem normal even after a long time the incident had occurred but later showing evidences of the effect of the trauma in their relationships, at work, and life generally. Reason we usually advise that anyone who may have witnessed, or experienced a trauma, but appearing okay now, should still talk to a therapist. Children are more susceptible to trauma because of their own helplessness. As they grow older, they may find it difficult to remember all the details of the event, but having the effects affecting their behavior.
In Nigeria, where children are not expected to talk bad about an older relative (although this culture seems to be wearing out gradually), it can be difficult for a child who is being abused by an older relative, or adult, to speak out.
When an individual have been raped, abused, maltreated, experienced war, or had been a witness to any of these things that can lead to a trauma, it can be hard for them to behave normal after some time because of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD.
Although not all of the victims of trauma eventually suffer from PTSD. Some wear out after few months, and are able to move on with their lives, but others don’t.
PTSD is a condition of persistent mental and emotional stress occurring as a result of injury, or severe psychological shock, typically involving disturbance of sleep, constant vivid recall of the experience, with dulled responses to others and to the outside world. PTSD are some forms of anxiety and flashbacks triggered by a traumatic event. It is not only found in the victim of such events, but witnesses of the event also go through it.
In Nigeria, there are an estimated 1.5 million cases of PTSD per year. Although treatable medically after some confirmed medical lab test, still millions of people go through this traumatic experience long after the event, without even knowing that they are suffering from a disorder. Symptoms of this disorder usually begin three months after the actual incident, or years later. These symptoms must last longer than a month, and should interfere with the sufferer’s relationships or work to be considered PTSD.
Shorter experience of PTSD can last up to six months or less, while the chronic PTSD lasts for a year, or more.
Some of the symptoms of PTSD in adults include, staying away from places or objects that reminds of the traumatic event, and a deliberate avoidance of thoughts related to the event, difficulty in sleeping, angry outburst, and in some cases, being easily startled. Dreams and nightmares about the event are some of the reasons sleep may be affected, including recurrent thoughts about details of the event.
Cognitive symptoms of PTSD include guilt, loss of interest in life, trouble remembering key features of the event, shame, and self-condemning thoughts. Such cognitive symptoms may affect the individual’s self-image and confidence, making them feel shy, and preference at being alone.
Children also experience PTSD, but with quite different symptoms. Common among children is bed wetting; If a child who had good use of toilet suddenly develops habits of bedwetting, it is important to know reasons for the new behavior. Clinginess to an adult after the event due to fear, being unable to talk, and in some cases, acting out the event at play time are also symptoms in children. This is one of the reasons play therapy is very important for children.
Play therapy is a form of counselling in which play is used as a means of helping children express their feelings.
Through play therapy, certain behaviour can be detected in a child because children generally find ways to express their internal issues.
I remember the play therapy I did for a school last term. I was able to use this therapy to observe some children who had some issues from their home just by observing their type of play, and behaviours exhibited during that time. The reports were confirmed by the parents of these kids later. One particular parent was so surprised at how we could know what was happening in her home just by observing her children play, that she busted out crying. That session later led to a meeting with parents of the school. As parents, you can watch the frequent play children act out their play time to know any abnormalities, if any, in your wards.
If you have experienced any traumatic event at some time in your life, and you had seen yourself in what have been shared so far, please see a psychiatrist immediately. Their confirmed diagnoses can help you with treatment of this disorder on time.
To your successfully evolving life.