22 for 22 or Talking to your GP or counsellor about distressing symptoms

My son is currently working as an extreme medic in a challenging environment providing essential health care in Kurdistan. He has a passionate commitment to improving the welfare of military veterans with PTSD and has been raising awareness through a challenge called 22 for 22. The number 22 is significant as it is the number of US veterans that commit suicide every day. Sadly, this is reflected in the British former service community too.

However, PTSD is by no means limited to those who have served in conflict areas. A wide range of distressing events from childhood abuse to road traffic accidents can result in trauma memories triggering distressing symptoms years after the initial events.

It can be nerve wracking to talk to a GP or counsellor about these distressing symptoms, so it helps to prepare what you want to say before you go, particularly when you want to explain several different psychological symptoms . Being clear will help your doctor or counsellor offer the best way forward for you.

If you have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, either recently or some time in the past, the following checklist may give you and your health care professional a helpful basis for your first appointment:-

First briefly describe what happened and when.

  1. I have symptoms of reliving the traumatic event: Have bad dreams or nightmares about the event or something similar to it; behave or feel as if the event were happening all over again; have a lot of strong feelings when I am reminded of the event; have a lot of physical sensations when I am reminded of the event
  2. I have symptoms of avoiding reminders of the traumatic event: Avoid thoughts, feelings, or talking about things that remind me of the event; avoid people, places or activities that remind me of the event; ave trouble remembering some important part of the event.
  3. I have noticed these symptoms since the event happened; Have lost interest in, or just don’t do things that used  to be important to me; Feel detached from people; find it hard to trust people; Have a hard time falling or staying asleep; Am irritable and have problems with me anger; Have a hard time focusing; Think I may not live very long and feel there’s no point in planning for the future; Am jumpy and get startled easily; Am always on guard.
  4. I experience these medical or emotional problems: stomach problems; Bowel problems; Female problems; Weight gain or loss; Chronic pain; Headaches; Skin problems; Lack of energy; Anxiety; Panic attacks; Other symptoms.

If you checked off some of the symptoms above, you may have PTSD. Your GP or counsellor will be able to explore these with you and make a diagnosis . You will then be in a much stronger position to work towards a treatment plan.

For more information about PTSD go to www.nhs.uk or www.mind.org.uk