• Dr Jacob D. van Zyl

Me and Tree Blog 20


by Dr. Jacob D van Zyl tel 013 752 2000

Practice@37A Ehmkestreet, Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, SA

BLOG (20/3) posted on 2019/01/27– check this blog for the next update in about two week’s time



In the previous blog I presented a perspective on the face of trauma and post-traumatic stress in South Africa.

In this blog I would like to define trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder in order for you to identify the symptoms either in yourself or a significant other.

What is trauma?

Trauma is described in the Dictionary of Psychology as any unpleasant mental experience which has a detrimental influence, mostly of ongoing nature, on the development of personality e.g. an accident or the death of a loved one. It can also follow a physical injury.

What constitutes post-traumatice stress disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is abbreviated by the letters PTSD and is described in most literature as an anxiety disorder which follows a traumatic incident, and presents with symptoms for a period exceeding one month. The traumatic event is consistently and persistently re-experienced by the individual. The person avoids stimuli associated with the trauma.

  • The person who has been exposed to a traumatic event often suffers from PTSD in which both of the following were present:

  • The person experienced or observed an event or events that involved a death or has felt threatened by death or suffered serious injury. A person whose physical or psychological survival of the self, and/or others were threatened. The event was therefore outside the realm of typical human experience.

  • The person’s reaction included intense fear, helplessness or terror.

  • A person who suffers from PTSD does not necessarily experience physical threat or damage. It can also be caused by something that has made you suffer intensely on an emotional level. Different people experience extraordinary events with varying impact on different levels: so many people, so many perceptions. What one person experiences as traumatic will not necessarily be experienced in the same way by another.

The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in one or more of the following ways:

  • Repeated and penetrating memories of the event, including visual images, thoughts or perceptions thereof. In the case of young children repeated games can occur where certain themes or aspects of the trauma are evident.

  • Repeated intense dreams of the event. In the case of children they can have horrifying nightmares .of which the content is not recognized.

  • The person relives the traumatic incident and act / feel accordingly. This includes the feeling that the event is recurring, delusions, hallucinations and associated flash backs, including those episodes which happens upon waking, or is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In the case of children, trauma specific re-enactment can occur, i.e. they play out the traumatic event.

  • Intense psychological need or discomfort in the event of exposure to internal or external stimuli, which are symbolic of, or are reminders of an aspect of the event.

  • Mental or psychological sensitivity when the person is exposed to external or internal stimuli which are symbolic of, or reminders of an aspect of the event.

Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, and numbing of general reactions, characterized by three or more of the following:

  • Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings or conversations associated with the trauma;

  • Efforts to avoid activities, places or people that evoke memories of the trauma;

  • Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma;

  • Significantly reduced interest or participation in activities that used to be meaningful to the person;

  • Feeling distant or alienated from other people;

  • A limited spectrum of emotional experience, for example the person is unable to experience loving feelings or to cry.

  • A negative perspective of the future, e.g. the person does not expect to have a career, marriage, children or a normal life span.

Another group of symptoms that occurs with PTSD is prevailing increased arousal, characterized by two or more of the following:

  • The person experiences trouble falling asleep or of remaining asleep.

  • Irritability or outbursts of anger;

  • Problems with concentration;

  • Being excessively careful (constantly on the look out);

  • Intense confused reaction or response to certain stimuli.

As mentioned earlier, the symptoms associated with PTSD last for at least one month. PTSD causes significant distress or social malfunctioning, at work, and in other important areas of life. The acute phase lasts for about three months, while the chronic phase can last longer. Often PTSD sufferers experience delayed reaction. If symptoms appear after six months of the traumatic incident only, the chances are good that the person is suffering from a delayed reaction with respect to the trauma.

In the next blog I will put the focus on the aspect of loss regarding trauma as well as post-traumatic stress disorder. Feel free to send your questions regarding trauma to or contact my rooms at 013 752 2000 in order to make an appointment.

In an anonymous way I will reflect on your questions or issues regarding trauma within the next series of blogs.


© 2018 by 4 Keep Sakes 

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