What is PTSD and what are its symptoms?
Let’s face it — talking about mental health in the Philippines is not very easy. Conditions like panic attacks and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) only come into public consciousness when they’re mentioned in the news. Take for example the Filipino soldier who was suffering from PTSD and was shot by the police during the quarantine period.
Although there are several studies on Filipinos and PTSD (such as comparing treatment-seeking and non-treatment seeking Filipinos) this condition is not widely – or comfortably -discussed in Filipinos’ everyday lives.
However, one can argue that it has been present in society and even in art. For example, Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere features a character called Sisa whose life drastically changed when her boys went missing. Since then, the term “Sisa” has been synonymous with crazy because of the way the mother acted after this traumatic experience. Who is to say that she is not simply suffering from PTSD?
PTSD in the Philippines after the pandemic
In recent years, journalists have covered PTSD in relation to the impact of natural disasters (e.g. Typhoon Yolanda) and conflict and violence (e.g. Marawi siege). For the longest time, PTSD has been associated with war veterans who have undergone intense hardships or particularly bloody batters. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, we may be getting more PTSD cases among frontline workers and the general public.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that mental health illnesses will increase because of the pandemic. Health workers, frontliners and people who have lost someone during this pandemic will be dealing with the stress and grief that can affect them long term. [https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/mental-health-considerations.pdf]
People who have also lost their jobs and livelihood during this time may also have to deal with PTSD. In the Philippines, we also have cases of Locally-Stranded Individuals (LSI), which includes students, overseas workers and the unemployed, who have been stranded in cities, living in unsafe temporary shelters and waiting for transportation to go back to their provinces.
There is also the story of Michelle Silvertino, the 33-year old single mother who lived and died under the footbridge of a highway while waiting for public transportation. This angered netizens and prompted the Government to improve on their Balik Probinsya Program.
This is why it’s not surprising that many scientists are saying that the next pandemic is a mental health crisis.
To better prepare ourselves for this inevitable reality that many of us or our loved ones will be facing, let’s learn more about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
What does PTSD mean?
PTSD means Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is a condition that often occurs in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event.
Because of the trauma, it affects a person’s way of life. For example, a person may become avoidant of situations that may remind him or her of the trauma. They may also have flashbacks or nightmares about this difficult experience.
PTSD can happen to both men and women, young and old, regardless of one’s race or culture. PTSD can be the result of traumatic experiences such as wars, abuse, or natural disasters.
What are the known symptoms of PTSD?
PTSD can manifest in several ways:
- Memories and thoughts of the traumatic episode become very intrusive
- You experience a lot of flashbacks that are so vivid, it feels like you are reliving the experience
- You actively try to avoid anything that will remind you of the experience, including people, places, activities, and even objects
- You try to avoid talking about the traumatic experience
- Negative feelings and thoughts take over your life
- You suddenly find it very difficult to trust people
- You have an ongoing fear, anger, guilt, or shame about the experience
- You no longer enjoy the activities that you used to like
- After the traumatic incident, you feel detached or estranged from other people
- You find yourself being more irritable or you become angry really fast over the smallest of things
- It’s also possible that you start to engage in self-destructive activities such as taking illegal substances
- You scare easily or you become very paranoid
- You have trouble concentrating or sleeping
How do I know if I have PTSD?
To know if you have PTSD, it is best that you talk to a mental health professional who will give you a proper diagnosis of your situation. If you find yourself exhibiting several of the symptoms listed above, that’s your cue to contact your nearest mental health center.
PTSD vs. Panic Attacks
A panic attack is another mental health condition wherein a person can experience intense feelings of fear without the actual danger. They are characterized by nausea, dizziness, and trembling.
On the other hand, PTSD is often triggered by re-experiencing the traumatic event. For example, when the person dreams or has flashbacks of the disturbing event, he or she can have heart palpitations, shortness of breath, etc.
PTSD vs. Anxiety Attacks
When panic attacks recur and become a long-term condition, they can become anxiety attacks. The symptoms should be present for at least six months before a diagnosis can be made.
The symptoms of PTSD and anxiety attacks may overlap which is why you need the opinion of a medical professional to determine your condition properly.
Can I get PTSD from emotional abuse?
Yes, you can get PTSD from emotional abuse. While not all emotional abuse can lead to PTSD, it is very possible that PTSD can develop after a particularly shocking or frightening experience. Emotional abuse can be counted as psychological trauma which can have the same effect on the body as physical trauma.
People who have developed PTSD because of emotional abuse are categorized to have the complex type of PTSD or C-PTSD.
What are the types of emotional abuse that can lead to C-PTSD?
Being treated a certain way by a partner, a relative, or even a friend can be counted as emotional abuse, especially if these things happen:
- Your personal freedom is taken away
- You are separated from other people
- You are not given a right to privacy or you feel that your personal space is being taken over
- They use threats to control or manipulate you
- They threaten other people who are close to you
- You are constantly being humiliated or belittled
Where do I get help for PTSD?
The bad news is that PTSD is not 100% curable. Like other mental health conditions, the symptoms can only be effectively managed so that the individual can function in his or her everyday life.
A lot of doctors recommend a combination of medication and therapy to improve the lifestyle of people who have PTSD. Meditation and breathing techniques can also do wonders to calm the mind of people who have PTSD.
Organizations like the International Association for Human Values (IAHV) that respond to the mental health and psychosocial needs of people affected by disasters, conflict and violence offer a wide range of services for people who are dealing with PTSD. IAHV teaches simple, evidence-based techniques that have been shown in 70+ independent scientific studies to reduce anxiety, depression and PTSD by 60-90%.
If you want to reach out to IAHV Philippines, simply email us or send us a message through our social media channels.