Continuous Traumatic Stress Disorder (CTSD)

Continuous Traumatic Stress Disorder (CTSD)

Many people are familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and how it affects people, but PTSD only describes scenarios wherein a traumatic event ends and aftermath occurs. On the other hand, continuous traumatic stress disorder (CTSD) applies to ongoing trauma that causes physical and psychological damage.

It was first recognized in South Africa, where people were consistently exposed to civil conflict and political repression. CTSD applies to many scenarios, which may all produce incredible stress that is difficult to cope with. People may develop CTSD if they live in areas of high crime and violence, or if they work as emergency personnel, such as police, firefighters and healthcare workers.

Effects of CTSD

The effects of CTSD resemble those of PTSD, including the following problems:

  • Intrusive memories of trauma in the form of flashbacks, nightmares and/or hallucinations
  • Emotional numbness
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Memory or concentration problems
  • Irritability or anger
  • Changes in sleeping patterns, particularly insomnia

The effects of trauma can also damage physical health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as much as 90 percent of illnesses can be related to stress. When people experience high levels of stress the immune system becomes compromised, increasing the possibility of infection. Stress also affects physical health by encouraging heart disease and high blood pressure.

How to Cope with Trauma

When people experience ongoing trauma, they might lack the appropriate time and resources to cope. For that reason, these people must seek outside help to cope with pain. Ask for the support of friends and family, because this can relieve a great amount of the stress from trauma. Communication ensures that emotions do not remain bottled up, but they are expressed. When family or friends are unavailable for this, many people find it beneficial to express their emotions through journaling or drawing.

Another way to cope with trauma is to establish a routine. Setting regular times to eat and exercise can help people feel some control over their lives. Setting time for exercise, sleep and hobbies can be beneficial in the same way. Also, therapy may be one of the most beneficial ways to manage the effects of trauma, particularly for those who experience it regularly. Trained therapists can help people overcome stress and trauma, and it can teach patients ways to cope. Learning coping mechanisms is essential to heal from trauma and to safeguard physical and psychological wellbeing.