What is PTSD/ASD?

Both Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Acute Stress Disorders are forms of Anxiety Disorders. These are conditions people can suffer in the aftermath of a traumatic event, which the sufferer may have found disturbing or terrifying.

You don’t have to be directly involved in a traumatic event to suffer from PTSD or ASD. If a person witnesses a traumatic event this can also lead to the development of one of these conditions.

Unlike common perception, PTSD and ASD is something anyone can suffer from. Symptoms of one of these conditions can appear after three months and can be due to incidents and events that placed a high level of pressure on the individual. Events such as sustaining an injury, evacuating in an emergency including suffering bullying and abuse.

PTSD/ASD can manifest over a short or long span of time. Trauma can lead to symptoms of mental trauma after 3-6 months. People who have sustained trauma in their past may also be repressing painful memories, this can also lead to the development of symptoms of PTSD/ASD in adulthood.

 

What are the signs and symptoms of PTSD/ASD?

It’s normal, after a particularly traumatic event, to feel upset, anxious or disconnected from everything, It’s a natural reaction. But over time, it can be a sign of ASD on at least a mild level.

While this can occur over a short span of time, feeling these conditions over a prolonged period of time can be an indicator of a more severe case of PTSD.

Both ASD and PTSD have symptoms that come under three distinct categories:

Re-living the event in some way:

  • Re-thinking events and expressing guilt over what happened.
  • Re-living the event in daydreams and nightmares, disturbing sleep cycles.
  • Situations or outside stimuli can lead to a trigger of PTSD, resulting in heart palpitations, sweating and often-violent physical reactions.

Evasive behaviour and numbing of emotions:

  • Sufferers may avoid specific locations, people or stimuli that might remind them of the traumatic event.
  • Their memory may appear blotchy due to a black-out of specific traumatic events or repressing memories.
  • Feeling ashamed, Guilty or depressed due to the events that happened.
  • Using substances such as alcohol to deal with other symptoms
  • Feeling ill or suffering pains with no explanation of why

Anxiety or Hyperarousal:

  • Feeling a low to a high level of anxiety or nervousness at all times
  • Difficulty concentrating and overactivity
  • Disturbed sleep cycles, having recurring dreams or vivid nightmares
  • Feeling constantly on edge, vigilant and defensive around others
  • Feeling easily irritable or quick to anger.

Children that suffer from traumatic symptoms can include:

  • Regressive behaviours such as being overly clingy, whining, etc.
  • Feeling genuine fears about death and dying.
  • Experiencing frightening dreams and being unable to describe what about.

Online Psychological Therapies we Offer:

What’s the difference between ASD and PTSD?

Acute Stress Disorder is an acute condition, which has relatively short-term conditions in contrast to PTSD. The latter of which is characterised by conditions, which persist over a month and beyond.

PTSD occurs in people who have suffered a more traumatic experience. Any direct or indirect threat to a person’s life, such as assault, terrorism, being the subject of abuse and bullying.

Those who witness a traumatic event but are not directly under threat by what they see/experience may not suffer from a severe degree of PTSD.

ASD deserves the same amount of support and attention as PTSD. ASD has every possibility of escalating into PTSD if left untreated. A proactive approach can help to treat patients and manage their conditions to prevent a long-term situation.

More complex conditions are PTSD can be due to a mixture of abuse, torture or sustained instances of stress and trauma. It can go unnoticed or repressed for years until finally causing severe symptoms of PTSD. This can lead to an increasingly defensive approach towards others, ultimately leading to self-isolation and increasingly aggressive behaviour.

ASD and PTSD – How common are these conditions?

While it’s common to feel acute levels of stress, anxiety, sadness and depression due to a traumatic event. Acute Stress Disorder is incredibly common but recedes after a few weeks.

30% of those that undergo some form of the traumatic experience will, unfortunately, end up being diagnosed with PTSD of some degree. While both men and women can experience PTSD: Women are 20-30% more likely to suffer from PTSD versus 8-13% likelihood in men.

While PTSD can happen to anyone, particular vocations or lines of service are more likely to contract PTSD due to the nature of their work. Roles in the Police force, Army, Medical services or Journalism are more likely to encounter traumatic experiences.

Children can suffer from both ASD and PTSD. While less frequent than in adults, if children in a household have a parent that suffers from PTSD. This can lead to adverse effects on the child as well.

What causes ASD and PTSD?

The reasons behind sustaining a condition like ASD or PTSD are explained by psychological and physical aspects. Experiencing flashbacks is an evolutionary trait the brain uses in order to prepare for if such an event happened again.

The body’s fight or flight reaction is a response to perceived danger, in order to allow the person to react for their self-preservation. With extreme cases of PTSD, this response rarely switches off, leaving the sufferer in a constant state of edginess and anxiety.

The reason for why people develop PTSD/ASD remains unclear due to the variability of how people can develop it.

Factors of a persons life can, however, increase the chances of suffering from one of these conditions in later life.

  • Experiencing trauma while undergoing bouts of chronic of overwhelming stress can lead to a wider-scale disorder.
  • Our childhood experiences can be repressed and lead to future trauma issues.
  • Having a previous personal and family history of mental health conditions such as Depression can increase the chances of developing PTSD/ASD.

The extremity of the trauma is a factor in the increased likelihood of developing PTSD. In events of a deliberate or premeditated attack on another such as a terrorist attack, torture or sexual assault.

Some research suggests that neurological factors can be an attributing factor to PTSD. A deficiency of specific peptides can lead to an increased chance of suffering a trauma disorder.

How is either of these diagnosed?

Psychological conditions can’t be tested for in the same way as medical or biological conditions. The best approach has always been through assessment by a qualified healthcare professional.

Seeking out the advice of a counsellor or psychiatrist can allow for a proper assessment and potential diagnosis. If the conditions described have been present for a month or more, a referral to a specialist would be recommended.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is followed by medical professionals. This is alongside their skill and observation of your conditions to give the most accurate diagnosis and treatment suggestions.

Upon the counsellor assessing whether you’ve sustained a traumatic event. The professional will then assess whether the sufferer demonstrates any of the four behaviours previously mentioned. Any symptoms that demonstrate re-experiencing the event, Anxiety, Mood changes or avoidance and problems with their sleep cycle.

A diagnosis of ASD functions the same as with PTSD but over a smaller window of time. Conditions of ASD generally appear four weeks after the event and recede in less than a week.

Treating ASD & PTSD – Recommendations

PTSD can be managed effectively through counselling and therapy methods. This is the case regardless of whether it’s taken up immediately after or a long time after a traumatic event.

Medication, on its own, can’t cure any form of PTSD, but medications like Anti-Depressants can work effectively as part of a broader treatment regimen to manage conditions of PTSD. Medications can alleviate symptoms but can’t cure these conditions outright.

Treatments such as the following have had a good deal of success in helping those suffering from PTSD:

Watchful Waiting – This is a passive method of assessing the sufferer, this is in order to see what behaviours and symptoms they exhibit and to what intensity. After a month of undergoing this method, the patient would refer back to their counsellor and have it be a component of an overarching diagnosis and treatment plan.

Psychotherapy – Psychotherapy, like other talking therapies, allow for the patient to unpack their daily and longer spanning problems in a positive, non-judgemental environment.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – As a therapy, CBT allows patients to reframe their perspective and take control of what happens within any cycle of PTSD. CBT can also be more trauma focussed; using potential triggers in order to gradually allow the sufferer to manage their reactions in a more constructive way.

Family Therapy – Being surrounded by a strong, supportive social and family network can allow PTSD sufferers to gain strength in them and from those they care about.

What if a sufferer doesn’t receive treatment for PTSD?

The risks attached to not receiving treatment for PTSD can range from social, psychological and physical problems to more severe consequences if PTSD is of higher severity.

The consequences of leaving PTSD untreated can be wide-ranging and severe. Trying to lead a normal life while suffering from the conditions that PTSD can cause can prove a monumental challenge even with support from counselling.

Sufferers can find holding down a job, maintaining friendships and family connections increasingly difficult. This can lead to increased social isolation, unemployment and serious financial troubles. Untreated PTSD can also lead to possible addictions to substances such as alcohol, smoking and other drugs.

Mental health conditions such as Anxiety, Depression and Bipolar Disorder can also develop alongside untreated PTSD. This can lead to highly destructive behaviours such as self-harm or even suicidal tendencies.

Additional resources for PTSD / ASD

Websites * Moodjuice Self-help Workbook For PTSD * NHS Guide to PTSD * Help Guide’s Pages on PTSD * Combat Stress UK

Useful Telephone Numbers

  • Combat Stress 24 hr hotline: 0800 138 1619
  • Samaritans: 08457 90 90 90
  • Saneline: 0845 767 8000

Counselling and Therapeutic Services and Organisations

There are many trained professionals who will be able to support you such as counsellors, psychotherapists, psychologists and psychiatrists.

Counselling and psychotherapy clinics – search through online directories for one in your area.

The NHS – an alternative to private practice in the UK is seeing your GP and asking for a referral to a specialist.

Mental Health Charities – organisations such as MIND, Rethink, Mental Health Foundation and Combat Stress UK may provide support groups, therapy and advice in your local area. You might want to call your local council to inquire about such organisations in your area.

You might also find our guide to low-cost counselling useful in your search.

For more information call 0753 718 1090 or email [email protected]. To book a Virtual Therapy appointment with the Online Therapy Company, please fill in the online booking form.

Author – Dr Aisha Ali – DPsych Couns Psych, ADOS 2 Certified B.Psych (Hons)

Dr Aisha Ali is a highly experienced BPS Chartered Counselling Psychologist and Expert witness with over 15 years experience of working within the NHS in complex care and private practice. She has extensive experience of working with individuals, couples and families presenting with complex psychological and emotional issues. Aisha provides life and performance coaching.

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