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    I was diagnosed with PTSD a few years ago due to the investigation of over 4500 accidents, post mortems and informing the next of kin.
    When faced with trauma, death, mutilation on accident scenes, it’s natural to feel afraid. This fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to prepare to defend against the danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a healthy reaction meant to protect a person from harm. But in PTSD, this reaction is changed or damaged. PTSD makes me feel stressed or frightened long after I have left the accident scene.

    The diagnosis of PTSD requires certain criteria: exposure to a severe psychological trauma and the persistent presence of three symptom clusters that include re-experiencing the traumatic event, physiologic hyper arousal, and emotional numbing paired with avoidance of stimuli associated with the event. Stimuli and cues associated with the trauma, such as features of an accident site, can cause a person to re-experience the traumatic memory and associated feelings of helplessness and fear.
    When re-experiencing a traumatic memory, I undergo a heightened stress-related hormonal response that further solidifies new stimulating associations with the traumatic memory.

    Avoidance patterns that I have developed interferes with my interpersonal relationships and has lead to marital conflict and even considering divorce. I also experience auditory hallucinations and paranoid ideation through nightmares.

    I have developed the following symptoms grouped into two categories:

    1. Re-experiencing symptoms:
    • Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating
    • Bad dreams
    • Frightening thoughts.

    Re-experiencing symptoms causes problems in my everyday routine. It starts from my own thoughts and feelings. Words, objects, or situations that are reminders of the event can also trigger my re-experiencing of the event.

    2. Avoidance symptoms:

    • Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience. I for instance walk out of church when they play Amazing Grace as this song is always played at funerals.
    • Feeling emotionally numb.
    • Feeling strong guilt, depression, or worry.
    • Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past.
    • Having trouble remembering the dangerous event.

    Things that remind me of the traumatic event can trigger avoidance symptoms. These symptoms may cause me to change my personal routine.

    3. Hyperarousal symptoms:
    • Being easily startled
    • Feeling tense or “on edge” I quickly “strip my moer” for the smallest of things.
    • Having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts.

    Hyper arousal symptoms are usually constant, instead of being triggered by things that remind me of the traumatic event. They can make me feel stressed and angry. These symptoms may make it hard to do daily tasks, such as sleeping, eating, or concentrating.

    I go through ongoing trauma as I am frequently exposed to accident scenes, continue doing reconstructions and work directly with next of kin as I assist in claims against the RAF. This leads to other ongoing problems like panic disorder, depression, substance abuse, and feeling suicidal. The only medication that seems to work for me except brandy and coke is anti-depressants.

    Unfortunately these medications have side effects. Side effects of antidepressants are:
    • Headaches.
    • Nausea
    • Sleeplessness or drowsiness
    • Agitation (feeling jittery).
    • Sexual problems, increased sex drive, and problems having and enjoying sex.

    If you know someone who has PTSD, it affects you too.
    Never ignore comments about your friend or relative harming him or herself, and report such comments to your friend’s or relative’s therapist or doctor.

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