Ask Dr Louise
I was hijacked four months ago. The hijackers took my car and got away with my cellphone, handbag and some cash that was in the car – but luckily left me on the side of the road. At the time I was so thankful I’d survived that I felt good. My car was insured, the handbag was an old one and so the only problem I had was cancelling all my bank cards and getting a new driver’s licence.
At the time I patted myself on the back for surviving the ordeal with so few psychological consequences. But a week ago I started having nightmares and couldn’t stop crying. I feel as if life has no meaning and I’ve lost interest in things I used to enjoy. I keep having flashbacks to the hijacking and even get the smell of the man who was obviously the team leader.
What’s going on? And why is this happening now when I’ve been fine all along? Tandiwe, email Many people who experience something traumatic feel fine immediately afterwards – they’re happy to be alive and don’t feel any psychological backlash. The problem is that the emotional and psychological reaction to the trauma is often delayed and therefore felt only later.
The symptoms you describe are typical of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following a life-threatening event. You need to consult with a psychologist who can help you work through your emotions and your feelings of fear, anger, anxiety and depression.
You might also benefit from seeing a psychiatrist who can prescribe medication for the depression and anxiety you’re experiencing now. These are both common in PTSD.
It’s important to get therapy after experiencing a life-threatening event, even if you feel fine immediately afterwards, as it will undoubtedly have an impact on you – even if you don’t feel it at the time.