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PTSD in nurses: the importance of self-compassion. Flashbacks & PTSD symptoms

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

How to recognize PTSD symptoms. PTSD in nurses: the importance of self-compassion.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness that can develop after experiencing a traumatic event, including both seeing or hearing about the event.

The symptoms of PTSD can start shortly after the experience or take weeks, months, or years to develop.

It is possible to recover from PTSD with the right help and support.

How common is PTSD?

It is estimated that PTSD will affect around 1 in 3 people who have experienced trauma.

Not everyone who has experienced a traumatic event will develop PTSD. The reason for this is still unknown.

Many people experience some trauma symptoms, which is a normal response; however, over time, these symptoms lessen as the person processes the event. Some people struggle to come to terms with what's happened, which can lead to PTSD.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

Symptoms of PTSD can affect every area of a person's life, including; work, home life, and relationships.

There are four main categories of symptoms:

Intrusive memories

This can include flashbacks of the event, nightmares, or emotional and physical distress to reminders of the event.

Alertness or feeling on edge

This can include alertness (hyper-vigilance), irritability or aggression, difficulty concentrating or being easily startled or panicky.

Avoiding feelings or memories

This can include feeling cut off from your emotions or detached from your body, being able to keep still and relax, struggling to remember details of the event, becoming self-destructive, or using alcohol/drugs to avoid recalling the event.

Negative beliefs or feelings

This can include negative thoughts about yourself and others, hopelessness, blame, feeling like you can't trust anyone, that nowhere is safe or that nobody else understands how you feel.

Other possible effects of PTSD

If you are dealing with the effects of PTSD, you may find the general pressures of everyday life a struggle. This could include caring for yourself, staying employed, maintaining a range of relationships, coping with change, or enjoying leisure time.

Does PTSD affect you physically as well as mentally?

When experiencing PTSD, the body releases hormones called cortisol and adrenaline. These are the body's natural responses to danger and can put you in a flight, fight or freeze response.

Continued release of these hormones can cause physical symptoms such as headaches, chest pains, and stomach aches and may also account for hypervigilance in some people.

What are flashbacks?

Flashbacks can be distressing and occur frequently. You may relive part of your traumatic experience or feel like it is happening in the present moment.

Flashbacks can involve a variety of different aspects, including:

● seeing full or partial images connected to what happened

● remembering sounds, smells or tastes from the trauma

● feeling sensations, such as pain

● re-experiencing emotions you felt during the trauma.

Self-reflection questions

To help you become more aware of your mental health and how you may be feeling at the moment, ask yourself the following questions.

Have you had flashbacks of an event recently and wondered why?

  1. Have you ever wondered why a particular smell, sound, or place makes you feel sad or afraid?

  2. Have you been isolating yourself from loved ones more often?

  3. Have you felt feelings of hopelessness?

  4. When was the last time you did something for yourself guilt-free?

Do you want to gain insights into how to deal with the mental health challenges faced by nurses?

Check out the latest episode of the Project ReNew Podcast.


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