PTSD and Strokes

People often link PTSD with soldiers or victims of severe traumas such as natural disasters, assaults, etc. However, PTSD can occur when a person feels his/her life has been threatened in some way (i.e. a car accident, assault, witnessing something frightening and so on - read more below on this). The attached videos present interesting information about a recent study which revealed that stroke victims might also experience PTSD symptoms.  It is not uncommon for people who have experienced car accidents, heart attacks, strokes or other life threatening injuries to experience a PTSD response to what has happened to them.  Even if it is not PTSD, the stress and anxiety related to an experience which caused one to fear for their life (i.e. surgery) can generate emotionally distressing symptoms later on.

Stress, anxiety and depression related to PTSD can be addressed through counselling which can successfully help you in significantly reducing such symptoms. Counselling Can Help!

For more information on PTSD and strokes watch these video clips:!A9DEE1E5-B8F6-4A7C-A9E5-3803DB041257

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is psychological, physiological and emotional response to an event in one’s life which was experienced as extremely traumatic. This might include an incident in which the person was exposed to something involving death (either witnessing it or participating in it), something involving the threat or potential threat of death (either to yourself or which you witnessed), incidences involving serious injury (either to self or others) such as accidents, natural disasters, crimes, war or conflict, situations involving sexual or domestic violence, etc. In other words, it can occur when someone is exposed to an event which is extremely frightening, emotionally overwhelming or causes significant distress.

The trauma is often unexpected and frequently the person involved felt powerless or helpless to stop or change the event in any way. It might also include a feeling helplessness or powerlessness if you witnessed an event and were unable to help someone or something (i.e. a pet) who was at the centre of the event.

Witnessing or experiencing events in which our lives (or the lives of others) were threatened or being exposed to situations in which someone dies or is grievously injured in some way can affect us on multiple levels. The person’s age at the time of the incident, their developmental stage, their psychological/emotional state, their capacity to cope, their history of trauma, their level of resilience will all play a part in how or if the person develops PTSD as a result of the event. This means that not everyone who experiences a trauma necessarily develops PTSD.

Symptoms of PTSD

Why do symptoms of PTSD develop?

When an event occurs which is extremely upsetting, our brains and bodies are trying to adapt and adjust to what has happened. As noted above, there are many factors which contribute to how we perceive the event and this will impact on our ability to cope with it and recover from it. Other factors might include the length of time the trauma lasted, the number of other traumatic experiences in a person’s life, their reaction to the event, and the kind of support they received after the event and so on.

People experiencing PTSD experience a wide array of symptoms. This might include flashbacks to the events (i.e. we keep reliving it in our minds), nightmares, thoughts or images of the events which enter their minds at unexpected times. As a result, people tend to begin avoiding anything which might remind them of the event. For instance, if someone was involved in a serious car accident, they might experience significant anxiety when getting into the car or driving past where the accident occurred, etc. Sometimes sleeping can be negatively affected due to nightmares.

Other symptoms include feeling anxious or “on edge” all the time or experiencing a “startle” response to everyday events. Many people feel irritable or angry or cry a lot while others feel numb and detached and feel disconnected from their body, thoughts or others. People describe experiencing an ongoing feeling of dread like something bad is going to happen or struggle in being able to concentrate or focus on things. People may experience a change in their thoughts and mood related to the traumatic event.

In order for a diagnosis of PTSD to be made, several criteria must be met and this assessment would be completed by a medical professional.

What Can Help With PTSD?

First, understanding what you are experiencing and why you are experiencing it can be very helpful. People who have PTSD often feel they are “going crazy” and so understanding that you are not is often a relief. Understanding trauma and its’ impact can help put things into perspective.

As Lori Haskell, EdD, SPsych explains in her “First Stage Trauma Treatment” book, a definition of trauma is:

A traumatic experience is an event that continues to exert negative effects on thinking (cognition), feeling (affect) and behaviours, long after the event is in the past.

By beginning to work through the impact that trauma has had on each of the above areas – thoughts, feelings and behaviours, one can begin to reduce the triggers for the PTSD and develop strategies to manage them effectively.

Counselling Can Help!

Seeing a therapist and confronting the trauma in a safe, well-paced and supportive therapeutic environment can help people heal and experience significant relief from their symptoms. Deep breathing, grounding and visualization exercises, visualization, meditation and mindfulness, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Traumatic Incident Reduction (TIR) ( all be effective in reducing the impact of PTSD.

Contact Karen at 705-875-7442 or at for support.

Karen Searle, M.S.W., R.S.W., Psychotherapist
544 George Street North, Peterborough, Ontario
K9H 3S2 ~ 705-875-7442

Photo ~ the delicate petals of a seed head