Some people are having Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Hong Kong due to the social unrest. What are their experiences?

A recent survey conducted by the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong revealed that one in every five adults in Hong Kong suffer from either depression or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) between September to November 2019 during the social unrest. The situation is similar to places, which went through massive disaster or serious terrorist attack. What actually would those suffering from PTSD experience after their traumatic experiences?

If the trauma was unresolved, during the trauma, the overwhelming experience was fragmented. This means that the feelings, thinking, images, sounds and bodily sensations related to the trauma are disintegrated at the material time. The fragments then intrude into the present as flashback. The flashback can occur anytime and the person’s stress hormones are released during the flashback as if he or she is re-experiencing the trauma. Sometimes, the reliving of the trauma occurs in the form of nightmares.

Due to the distress of reliving the trauma, places, activities or people that remind the person about the trauma may be avoided. This may affect one’s daily functioning in the work, family and social domains.

Due to the recurrent flashback and release of stress hormones, the person becomes less interested in daily activities and has difficulty to live in the present moment. The person starts to have poor concentration in day-to-day tasks. He or she may start to feel numb and have difficulty to experience positive emotions. Various responses may also be triggered, such as startled responses, anger or numbness. In order to avoid these sufferings, the person may try to escape from them by engaging in addictive behavior like drinking or binge eating.

PTSD can start after one month of the event or years after the trauma. If someone has distressing thoughts or feelings after a traumatic event for more than one month, and this significantly affecting his or her daily functioning, it is advisable that the person seeks professional help as soon as possible.

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