Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD, now classified as a “trauma and stress related disorder” in the DSM V, instead of its former classification as an anxiety disorder, develops in response to a traumatic event. The definition of triggering events was more expansive in the fourth edition of the manual; currently a triggering event is defined as “exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violation.” Triggers can be associated with events related to:

  • Witnessing/experiencing of wartime atrocities
  • Combat
  • Being a victim/witness of crime
  • Natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tsunamis
  • Sexual and physical assault, domestic violence
  • Childhood sexual abuse/neglect
  • Motor vehicle accidents, air plane accidents
  • Childbirth complications, birth trauma, unexpected birth outcomes
  • Medical diagnoses, medical interventions
  • Traumatic loss of a loved one, including suicide
  • Other traumatic events such as house fires

Features of PTSD include:

  • Flashbacks to the traumatic incident
  • Intrusive/ruminative thoughts about the trauma
  • Heightened startle response
  • Nightmares, insomnia
  • Intense anxiety/panic when thinking about the trauma, also known as “hyperarousal”
  • Depressed mood, numbness
  • Memory problems, sometimes being unable to remember aspects of the trauma
  • Emotions such as anger, guilt (sometimes “survivor guilt” about being the lone survivor)
  • Indecisiveness
  • Social withdrawal
  • Avoidance of situations and people that trigger memories/thoughts about the event

Not everyone that experiences trauma develops PTSD. Here to Help BC estimates that about 15% of those exposed to trauma will go on to develop PTSD. The reasons for this are not clear.  Many believe it is a complex combination of childhood experiences, previous traumatic events and biology. As noted above, for an official diagnosis of PTSD, there needs to be a triggering event involving exposure to actual/threatened death/serious injury or sexual violation. Unofficially, a person may experience classic symptoms of PTSD in response to a trigger that does not meet this revised definition.  The survivor’s experience remains very real, very legitimate, even without the label.

I invite you to contact me for a free 15-minute consultation to help you determine whether I am the right fit for you. Achieving help for trauma or PTSD, like any other reason for coming to therapy, is predicated on a good therapeutic fit.

Recommended Books

The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk (2014).

Seminal text on the neurobiology of trauma.

8 Keys to Safe Trauma Recovery: Take-Charge Strategies to Empower Your Healing by Babette Rothschild (2010)

A gentle approach to trauma resolution, emphasizing the importance of choosing strategies that work well for you personally.

Resources

Crime Victims Assistance Program

Assists victims, immediate family members and some witnesses in coping with the effects of violent crime by providing qualifying individuals with financial benefits to help offset financial losses and assist in recovery.

Reduced-Cost Counselling [PDF]

A resource list of lower-cost professional counselling options in Vancouver. Corrections and suggestions welcome.

BC Society for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse

604-682-6482
Individual and group counselling on a sliding scale.

Vancouver Incest and Sexual Abuse Centre, (VISAC) Family Services of Greater Vancouver

604-874-2938
Counselling for children, youth, families and adults who have experienced sexual abuse or trauma.

Canadian Mental Health Association

604-872-4902
National organization promoting mental health for all.

Vancouver Access and Assessment Centre (AAC)

604-675-3700 – Joseph and Rosalie Segal Centre, Vancouver Hospital, Level 1, East Entrance

24/7 phone, walk-in and outreach support for urgent, non life-threatening mental health and addictions issues.

Here to Help

BC-based website offering comprehensive information on a wealth of mental health conditions and addictions concerns.