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Trauma and PTSD Counselling – Melbourne CBD Psychologists

Anxiety Disorde

No two people experience life the same way. Even encountering the same event impacts different people in various ways. While witnessing or experiencing happy events leaves one with positive feelings, the experience of traumatic events such as fatal accidents, natural disaster, sexual abuse and domestic violence can sometimes lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a type of Anxiety Disorder that affects stress hormones and changes the body’s response to stress. Genetic, psychological and social factors together with a history of trauma are believed to play a vital role in the development of PTSD. The illness is associated with poor functioning and low quality of life and is often comorbid with other mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, drug-use and dependence. It affects up to 10% of Australians and is more common amongst women compared to men, and veteran individuals compared to non-military personnel. Recently there has been awareness surrounding PTSD in children as it often goes undiagnosed. It is important for medical professionals to pay particular attention for PTSD in children as research has shown PTSD to detrimentally impact a child’s developmental process (cognitive, emotional, social) and physical health.

What is considered a ‘traumatic’ event leading to PTSD?

In order for an individual to be diagnosed with PTSD, they need to have directly encountered or witnessed a traumatic event, know of a friend or family member who experienced trauma, or be exposed to stimuli related to trauma on a regular basis (i.e. a forensic investigator). This trauma must be, or be perceived, as exceptionally upsetting or frightening. Traumatic events typically include life-threatening events (i.e. terrorist attacks, natural disasters, going to war, an accident), sexual assault, physical assault, traumatic childbirth, sudden death of a loved one and the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness. It does not typically include problems such as relationship breakdown, failing an exam or losing a job – if an individual is experiencing significant distress after such situations they may be diagnosed with adjustment disorder. Research shows that of the 50-70% of people who are exposed to seriously traumatic events, 15-25% will develop symptoms of PTSD.

Symptoms of PTSD:

PTSD can affect many areas of one’s life, with symptoms varying from person to person. Please see the table below for symptoms of PTSD that can be categorised into four groups – feelings, physical, behavioural or cognitive. If any of these symptoms are prolonged and are affecting your life including ties with your family and friends, it is highly recommended that you seek professional treatment. Note: Whilst the table includes symptoms of PTSD, the underlined font includes symptoms more specific to PTSD as opposed to typical symptoms of other mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression.


  • Emotional numbness
  • Increased arousal leading to being easily angered, agitated and panicked.
  • Fear & anxiety
  • Depressed & sad
  • Helplessness, Hopelessness & Despair.
  • Guilt & self blame.
  • Disbelief & denial.
  • Low self-worth and self-esteem.
  • When thinking about the traumatic event, one may experience intense physical symptoms consistent with anxiety such as sweating, heart palpitations, tight chest etc.
  • Psych-somatic issues such as body aches, pain, muscle tension and headaches.
  • Feelings of dissociation .
  • Increased arousal leading to trouble sleeping, being easily startled, reckless & self-destructive behaviour.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Alcohol addiction.
  • Mood swings.
  • Social withdrawal.
  • Emotional eating
  • Avoiding external reminders of the trauma (people, places etc.)


  • Poor concentration.
  • Confusion.
  • Re-experiencing the trauma through nightmares and flashbacks.
  • Intrusive thoughts.
  • Avoiding memories & thoughts associated with the trauma.
  • Decreased attention, executive functioning (organisation, prioritisation etc.), intellectual functioning (esp. verbal), memory & learning.

CAUTION – Don’t confuse PTSD with another form of distress!

PTSD can be easily confused with other forms of distress such as Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) and Acute Stress Disorder (ASD). The table below differentiates PTSD from PTS and ASD.

Post Traumatic Stress (PTS)Vs.PTSD

· Normal and adaptive reaction to a traumatic event.

· PTS shares similar symptoms to PTSD however they are less intense and short-lived (few days).

· PTS is usually resolved within a month.

· Will not result in prolonged, impaired day-to-day functioning.

· Treatment is typically not necessary but can be beneficial.


· Only a minority of people suffering with PTS will develop PTSD.

· Symptoms are more intense, constant and long-lived; usually lasting longer than a month.

· Prolonged impaired day-to-day functioning.

· People suffering from PTSD typically require medical help.


Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)Vs.PTSD

· Both PTSD and ASD follow a traumatic event.

· Symptoms are the same and as severe as PTSD, however they last 2 days to 4 weeks.

·  More emphasis on dissociative symptoms.

· Both PTSD and ASD follow a traumatic event.

· ASD is diagnosed as PTSD if the symptoms last for 30 days or more.

· People with ASD are likely to be diagnosed with PTSD.

· Less emphasis on dissociative symptoms.

Common types of treatment:

  • Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (TF-CBT): Helps one process and evaluate their thoughts and feelings about the trauma, restore a sense of control and emotional stability, and make sense of the traumatic event.
  • Exposure Therapy: Is used to treat anxiety conditions by exposing a person to their fear (e.g. reminders of the traumatic event) in conjunction with relaxation techniques in a non-threatening environment.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EDMR): Is an eight-step process combining aspects of cognitive behavioural therapy with rhythmic, left-right eye movements to weaken the impact of traumatic reminders.
  • Family therapy: To help a traumatized individuals’ family understand PTSD, initiate communication and promote health relationships between family members.

How can Psylegal help you with PTSD?

If you are experiencing some of the symptoms listed above give us a call today to speak with one of our highly trained and experienced trauma Psychologists. They will draw on evidence based treatment strategies to tailor an individualized treatment program taking into consideration your unique therapeutic goals and needs.

Give us a call today on 1300 79 22 09

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