As it is trauma day on the 17th of October I decided to do a psycho-educational blog on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

As Gabor Maté once said trauma is not what happens to you it is what happens inside you when something happens which is traumatic.

If you are like many South Africans and have been the victim of violent crime, abuse, accidents, loss, or illness, you may be suffering from a very real illness – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Many victims of trauma in South Africa don’t get help because they feel embarrassed, they think that acting brave and tough is the ‘manly’ thing to do, they have seen so much violence that they feel ‘numb’, or they refuse to believe what happened.


Experiences that are sudden or that we don’t expect like a car accident or robbery, threaten our lives and our safety. We are also emotionally hurt – and we often feel helpless, scared, angry, and guilty.


Anyone who has gone through a traumatic event, or has even witnessed something traumatic, can be affected. There are many different events that can cause someone to react badly:

Seeing a trauma

Death of a loved one

Accident – car, work, home


High-jacking, smash & grab

Natural disaster

Work-related stress


Domestic violence Divorce, break up

Having a terminal illness like cancer or AIDS

Assault or abuse

Going through or seeing violence often


Most people feel certain things after a traumatic event. Normal symptoms and reactions include:

  • Nightmares
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Changes in appetite
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Irritable, agitated, or angry
  • Hyper vigilant-Very aware and ready to act
  • No energy, feeling tired all the time
  • Feeling depressed/sad mood, crying a lot of the time
  • Avoiding people, places and things that remind you of the event
  • Not being able to concentrate on work or normal, everyday actions
  • Feeling worried about the safety of the people that you love For most people, these symptoms get less and go away after a couple of weeks. However, if they continue for 6 weeks or longer, it may be PTSD.


Any traumatic event can cause PTSD and can affect anyone who has been caught up in a traumatic event. PTSD makes you re-live the pain and memories of the trauma all the time. Remember that PTSD is not a sign of weakness.

Not all people who have been through a trauma will develop PTSD or need treatment; some get better with the help of family, friends or other support. But many people need professional help to recover.

Children can also get PTSD. Domestic violence and abuse, loss of parents, war, and natural disasters impact on the lives of children.


PTSD usually appears within three months of the trauma, but sometimes it may come on months or even years later.

There are three groups of PTSD symptoms: intrusive symptoms, avoidance symptoms, and symptoms of hyper-arousal.

INTRUSIVE SYMPTOMS: People suffering from PTSD may have times when the traumatic event ‘takes over’ their life when they have sudden, very realistic memories and painful emotions.

FLASHBACKS – a memory so powerful that the person feels as if the trauma is happening all over again – is a common symptom of trauma and PTSD. At times, the re- experiencing occurs in nightmares that are so real that the person wakes up screaming in terror. In children, dreams of the traumatic event are often nightmares of scary animals, or danger to people they love like friends and family.

AVOIDANCE SYMPTOMS: PTSD sufferers often stay away from situations that may remind them of the traumatic event. A hijack victim, for example, may find it extremely frightening to drive. Over time, the person may become so scared of particular situations that his or her daily life is affected by them trying to avoid these situations. These also affect a person’s relationships with other people, because he or she will try stay away from having a close emotional relationship with family, friends and colleagues.

HYPER-AROUSAL SYMPTOMS: PTSD can cause sufferers to act as though they are still threatened by the trauma that caused their illness. Sufferers often become irritable, and may have trouble concentrating or remembering things. They often get insomnia which is difficulty sleeping. PTSD sufferers get frights easily – if they hear a car backfire or a fire cracker, they get very scared and hide for cover.

GUILT: Trauma includes loss and many people can’t cope with the guilt that they caused the incident or that they should have somehow stopped the trauma from happening.

If there was a death during the incident, survivors often feel guilty that they lived when others didn’t. It is very important to understand that these feelings are normal and to get counselling as soon as possible.


PTSD is negative for both the sufferer and his or her family.

SUBSTANCE ABUSE: Many people suffering from PTSD try get rid of painful memories, loneliness and nervousness by using alcohol or other drugs as a form of self-medication. Substance abuse helps to take away feelings and memories for a little while.

DEPRESSION: Many PTSD sufferers can’t get over the grief and anger after the injury or loss, and this can cause depression as the person begins to see him or herself as worthless and a failure. The symptoms of depression – like not being able to think properly, the negative views of the world, and the changes in sleeping habits – all make PTSD worse.

SUICIDE: A person with PTSD may feel their pain will never end. People with PTSD can be at risk for suicide.

Resource: South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG)

Trauma also has a great effect on the brain by doing BWRT we can rewire the trauma pathways in your brain, updating your brain’s software. You won’t let your phone’s software be outdated, why do that with your brain software.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with me for an online counselling session. Let’s together create an environment where you can connect with yourself again, an environment that fosters and encourages authenticity. An environment where you can follow your gut and get to know what it looks like.

After doing an intake I might be able to help you with a few sessions using BWRT (Brainworking Recursive Therapy) read more about BWRT on another blog on my website:, or we will use another technique depending on your unique needs.

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