Savar tragedy is a distressing, horrible and scary experience for us. Many lives have been lost, many survive only to suffer with permanent disabilities. After such traumatic experiences, nearly everyone will have the symptoms of stress and grief for the first month which is a natural grieving process. Over a few weeks, stress symptoms in most people will start to disappear.
Not everyone is so lucky. Some will still experience those symptoms and they cannot come to terms with what has happened. When the symptoms of a traumatic stress become persistent for long, it is called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
PTSD is a kind of anxiety disorder that can be developed after exposure to one or more traumatic events that threatened or caused grave physical harm. Such events can include combat or military exposure, terrorist attacks, serious accidents, such as a car wreck, natural disasters like fire, tornado, hurricane, flood, earthquake, violent physical assault, kidnaping, emotional or sexual assault or abuse, paranormal events or getting a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness.
Witnessing traumatic experiences or learning about these experiences may also cause the development of PTSD symptoms. Emergency responders who help victims during traumatic events, police, fire brigade, ambulance workers and even the journalists covering the incidents are also at risk.
The symptoms of PTSD usually appear within 6 months of a traumatic event. But there are examples where PTSD developed years later. Symptoms of PTSD can be terrifying. They may disrupt one’s life and make it hard to continue with one’s daily activities. Horrifying memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time.
Sufferers of PTSD finds themselved re-living the event, over and over. This can happen both as a flashback in the day and as nightmares during sleep. These can be so realistic that they may feel the same emotions and physical sensations of what happened before.
Some sufferers deal with the pain of their feelings by trying to feel nothing at all — by becoming emotionally numb. Some PTSD sufferers may be jittery or always alert and on the lookout for danger. They cannot get relaxed, suddenly become angry or irritable, feel anxious, have trouble concentrating and find it hard to sleep. This is known as hyperarousal.
Having PTSD, dealing with the past can be hard. But treatment can help to get better. PTSD is commonly treated using a combination of psychotherapy and medications. Basic counselling for PTSD includes education about the condition and provision of safety and support.
Early intervention after a traumatic incident, known as Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) is used to attempt to reduce traumatic effects of an incident and potentially prevent a full-blown occurrence of PTSD.
If you go through overwhelming frightening experiences, help yourself to prevent PTSD:
• Share the incidence with trusted ones
• Get back to your usual routine and work
• Spend leisure times with family and friends
• Have regular meal and exercise
• Try relaxation techniques
• Visit the area where the traumatic event happened
• Keep life as normal as possible
• Consult with mental health specialist
The writer is Assistant Registrar, National Institute of Mental Health.