Welcome - Healing from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is possible

Trauma and PTSD

What defines a Traumatic Situation?

A traumatic situation is one in which you perceive there to be a threat of significant injury to yourself and/or others, your response is one of horror, helplessness, and/or fear, and your normal coping strategies are overwhelmed. 

 

Does experiencing a Traumatic situation mean I will develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

No, not at all.  In fact most people who experience trauma and resultant traumatic stress symptoms will recover fully within four weeks.  We know that 60% of men and 50% of women report at least one traumatic event in their lives and only 7-8% go on to develop PTSD.


It should be noted however that Police Officers, Firefighters, Paramedics, Corrections Workers, Emergency Medical Workers, and Military Soldiers/Veterans are at higher risk for PTSD than the general population. 


Symptoms of PTSD

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual , 5th Edition (DSM-5) a number of types of symptoms must  be present to support the diagnosis of PTSD.  These include:

  • Intrusive Symptoms that involve reliving of the trauma - e.g., flashbacks, night terrors, nightmares; dissociating (i.e., "zoning out")
  • Avoidant Symptoms - avoiding people, places, things, memories and emotions that are reminders of the trauma
  • Increased Arousal Symptoms - e.g., irritability, increased physical agitation, emotional outbursts, always looking for threats, concentration issues, sleep issues, using alcohol or substances to self-medicate
  • These symptoms have lasted for more than a month
  • These symptoms are causing significant distress in one or more areas of a person's life

What does the valley of the shadow of death have to do with PTSD?

Most people who have experienced PTSD can relate to the idea of valley of the shadow of death.  Experiencing PTSD is like being in a place that is dark and foreboding - with no clear pathways out.  The "shadow of death" refers to the real or symbolic deaths that occurred during the trauma.  In addition to the psychological trauma, there might also have been physically injuries. Despair lurks in this valley.  One's usual coping strategies aren't as effective as they used to be. Daily functioning in work and/or personal areas of your life can become a struggle.  


It is important to recognize that developing PTSD is not a matter of weakness or character flaw, but rather is a natural response to trauma since PTSD affects brain functioning - and in fact, its effects have been observed on brain MRIs.  


One of the first tasks of healing from PTSD is to learn about it - and to get your bearings in the valley.  The second task is to accept help and support from others.

Did you know...

  • 8% of Canadians will experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in their lifetime (CMHA, 2013) 
  • First responders experience PTSD at twice the rate of the average population (Centre for Suicide Prevention, 2015)
  • Social support from the emergency responder’s employer, union, and personal network appears to provide some protection against the  development of PTSD  (Regher et al, 2000)
  • In 2015: 40 first responders and 12 military members died by suicide in Canada (Tema  Conter, 2016)
  • Differences can be seen in the brain MRIs of individuals with PTSD versus those who have not been traumatized (Lanius, 2011)​
  • Effective treatments for PTSD are available (Bisson et al., 2013).