Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that develops after you experience something extremely traumatic, like violence, abuse, rape, neglect or a life-threatening situation. It can also affect you if you witnessed something terrible happening, like a serious car accident. In South Africa, we have very high rates of violent crime, gender-based violence and road accidents, which means that South African’s are at high risk for developing PTSD. Most people take time to get over a traumatic event, but in PTSD, you can’t move past the event and carry on having dreams, flashbacks or upsetting thoughts about it.
PTSD symptoms can appear straight after a traumatic experience or only start later on. They’re usually noticed within 6 months of the experience.
The symptoms of PTSD can have very negative and far reaching impacts on the lives of young people, in terms of their education or careers as well as their personal relationships. PTSD is not something that will get better on its own. If you have PTSD you need to receive treatment from a mental health professional, and the longer you go without treatment the more serious your symptoms may become.
PTSD can be treated, and effective treatments include different types of psychotherapy (talk therapy) or medication. If you think you may have PTSD the first step is to see a mental health professional so that they can make a formal diagnosis. They can then advise you on treatment options based on your specific needs.
Trauma-focused psychotherapies are often used for treating PTSD. “Trauma-focused” means that the treatment focuses on the memory of the traumatic event or its meaning. These treatments use different techniques to help you process your traumatic experience in a safe space. If you also experience depression or anxiety, you may be prescribed medication to help manage and improve those symptoms. Recovery from PTSD may be a lengthy process, so it is important to give yourself time and be patient with yourself throughout your recovery.
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