Written by Anouska Levart – Senior Features Editor
PTSD can be caused by distressing or frightening traumatic events that can be relived through flashbacks and nightmares. Soldiers can experience PTSD due to events during combat, but this disorder isn’t just in the military, and can affect anyone.
Becky Reed suffered from PTSD at university, and describes what it feels like, “You could just be sitting in a café with a friend, and then get a waft of a certain smell across the room, or you hear a specific sound, and then suddenly, you are back there.” She explains that you can see the people, feel the same feelings, smell the same smells, hear the same noises and experience all the same sensations. “Your heart rate rises, your breathing gets faster, and your palms get sweaty. Unsurprisingly, at this time, thoughts go to escaping the situation and making yourself safe, because it can genuinely feel, that even if you are in the safest place in the world, you are back in that traumatic event.”
For Becky, if she does not feel that she is really back there, then she finds it difficult to stop thinking about, and that her mind can wander and spend hours thinking about the trauma. She explains her intense desire to revisit the event, “Not because you want to relive it, far from that, but because you want to change what has happened. You can convince yourself that if you had done something slightly differently, then the traumatic event wouldn’t have happened. This can lead to frustration and hatred towards yourself, and the development of the unhelpful, and ultimately false belief, that it is your fault.”
It is not just the PTSD but also the anxiety which makes Becky feel constantly on edge, “Think of the feeling you get when you nearly fall down the stairs or fall off a stool. It leaves me constantly on the lookout for any sign of danger – even if I am in the safest place in the world. It can be exhausting.” She suggests that you keep reminding yourself of your coping mechanisms, such as listening to music, going for a walk, and reading a book, which will help you slowly start to settle into your new home.
Also, to access as much help as you possibly can, as getting help from her university mental health team and personal tutor was the best decision she ever made, “I didn’t do this at first. I came to uni believing I could survive on my own, and the truth is I couldn’t. The only advice I would give for PTSD is to talk about it. Suffering in silence is literally the worst, and opening up is the best way to reframe horrible thoughts.”