Ask Dr Louise

YOU (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - Write to Dr Louise, PO Box 39410, Morele­ta­park 0044, or email info@dr­louise.co.za.

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.

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