There are moments that scar us all. Some we don’t even recognize; others we remember all too vividly. As individuals, we are a summation of our past and present experiences, therefore how we manage these experiences is pertinent to how we end up interacting with the rest of the world.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be described as a mental and behavioural health condition that develops secondary to a terrifying or traumatic event either experienced or witnessed. Nine per cent of people globally battle with PTSD symptoms at some point or another in their lives, and these symptoms may persist for weeks or years depending on the severity of the incident, significantly affecting the day-to-day living of individuals. Direct assault cases, such as domestic violence, sexual assault, vehicle collisions, warfare, incest, child abuse, and threats on a person’s life tend to trigger symptoms more commonly than non-assault based trauma such as natural disasters, and according to research, females are more susceptible to the disorder than males.  

PTSD symptoms manifest in four major ways: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and arousal symptoms.

Intrusive memories present as recurrent, distressing memories of the traumatic event, dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event, flashbacks, or severe emotional and physical reactions to reminders of the traumatic event, avoidance tends to manifest as deliberate and dogmatic refusal to think or talk about the traumatic event. This includes avoiding places, activities or people that remind you in any way of the traumatic incident.

Negative changes in thinking and mood are exceedingly common and may include negative thoughts about yourself, other people or the world, hopelessness and depression, selective amnesia, difficulty maintaining close relationships, feelings of detachment from family and friends, listlessness, lethargy, difficulty experiencing positive emotions, emotional numbness, as well as changes in physical and emotional reactions.

Some may experience arousal symptoms, including anxiety, the constant expectation of and guarding against danger, self-sabotaging behaviours such as alcoholism, drug abuse, self-injury, insomnia, attention deficit disorders, and temper tantrums, especially in children, aggression and feelings of guilt, shame and self-doubt.

Self-sabotaging/ destructive symptoms are the most visible symptoms of PTSD, and a frequent cause of voicing out by family, friends and concerned parties. However, close attention should be paid to victims of trauma for the detection of other less obvious behavioural changes, as all are harmful and corrosive in their own way.

In certain cases, PTSD symptoms resolve themselves but most times if left untreated the sufferer progresses to a worse mental state and can develop suicidal urges. If this is the case, it is important to seek help at once via any of these avenues:

·         Reach out to a close friend, trusted family member or loved one.

·         Confide in a spiritual leader or a trusted member of your religious community.

·         See a doctor or mental health professional.

·         Contact a suicide helpline.

  • Asido Foundation Helpline
    • +234 902 8080 416
  • Nigerian Suicide Initiative Prevention Center
    •  +234 806 210 6493
  •  National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)
    •  080 7709 1123
  • Lagos suicide hotlines, by the Lagos State Government
    • 080 5882 0777
    • 090 3000 0741
  • LUTH Suicide Research and Prevention Initiative (SURPIN)
    • 090 8021 7555
    • 09034400009
    • 081 1190 9909

In societies where seeking psychiatric assistance is shunned, it is necessary to be reminded that mental health is as tangible and valid as physical health, and therefore should not be avoided but embraced as required.

Opeolu Oreoluwa