Wounded marine suffering from PTSD and using tobacco to self-medicate

1.4 million Australians at any one time have PTSD. It is a reality that PTSD and trauma affect people from all walks of life, including:

Symptoms of PTSD

DSM 5 lists four clusters of symptoms

  • Re-experiencing the event — For example, spontaneous memories of the traumatic event, recurrent dreams related to it, flashbacks or other intense or prolonged psychological distress.
  • Heightened arousal — For example, aggressive, reckless or self-destructive behaviour, sleep disturbances, hyper-vigilance or related problems.
  • Avoidance — For example, distressing memories, thoughts, feelings or external reminders of the event.
  • Negative thoughts and mood or feelings — For example, feelings may vary from a persistent and distorted sense of blame of self or others to estrangement from others or markedly diminished interest in activities, to an inability to remember key aspects of the event.
Symptoms of PTSD

Treatment for Trauma and PTSD

Duration and Intensity

Severity of PTSD depends on the duration and intensity of the stressors. Acute stress disorder lasts 3 days from exposure to trauma or traumatic stress. Adjustment disorder is behavioural and emotional changes and lasts about 3 months from exposure to traumatic stress. Small T is single incident trauma while Big T refers to complex or more than one incidents of trauma.

Research shows with therapy and building of resilience, the traumatic stressor reduces over time as people adapt to stress exposure. Also, recovery varies according to temperaments, coping resources and social supports.

Comorbidity of PTSD

PTSD co-occurs with other disorders like depression, anxiety and substance use disorders. It can also co occur with Acute Stress disorder and Adjustment Disorders which are responses to exposure to severe stress.

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