If you are involved in or witness a traumatic event, it is common to experience upsetting, distressing or confusing feelings afterwards. The feelings of distress may not emerge straight away – you may just feel emotionally numb at first. After a while, you may develop emotional and physical reactions, such as feeling easily upset or not being able to sleep.

This is understandable, and many people find that these symptoms disappear in a relatively short period of time. But if your problems last for longer than a month, or are very extreme, you may be given a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

There’s no time limit on distress, and some people may not develop post-traumatic symptoms until many years after the event. Additionally, not everyone who has experienced a traumatic event develops PTSD.

Most of the Dads we see are suffering from mild cases of PTSD; caused in the whole by the subtle emotional abuse from their former spouse or partner – which can arise from a hostile or acrimonious separation or from the withholding or denial of access to finances, family, friends or even your own children.

The symptoms of PTSD can vary from person to person, although you may experience some of the following.

Reliving aspects of the trauma:

  • vivid flashbacks (feeling that the trauma is happening all over again);
  • intrusive thoughts and images;
  • nightmares;
  • intense distress at real or symbolic reminders of the trauma;
  • physical sensations, such as pain, sweating, nausea or trembling;

Alertness or feeling on edge:

  • panicking when reminded of the trauma
  • being easily upset or angry
  • extreme alertness
  • a lack of, or disturbed sleep
  • irritability and aggressive behaviour
  • lack of concentration
  • being easily startled
  • self-destructive behaviour or recklessness.

Avoiding feelings or memories:

  • keeping busy
  • avoiding situations that remind you of the trauma
  • repressing memories (being unable to remember aspects of the event)
  • feeling detached, cut off and emotionally numb
  • being unable to express affection
  • using alcohol or drugs to avoid memories.

You may also develop other mental health problems, such as:

  • severe anxiety and/or panic attacks
  • a phobia
  • depression
  • suicidal feelings.
If you feel you are experiencing any of these symptoms, we urge you to reach out and seek support; contact us at Dads Unlimited, your friends, family, your GP, or MIND, a charity set up to specifically help at times like these (0300 123 3393 info@mind.org.uk)

Information courtesy of MIND.