Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events.

Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt. They may also have problems sleeping, such as insomnia, and find concentrating difficult. These symptoms are often severe and persistent enough to have a significant impact on the person's day-to-day life.

Any situation that a person finds traumatic can cause PTSD. These can include serious road accidents, violent personal assaults, such as sexual assault, mugging or robbery, serious health problems and childbirth experiences. PTSD can develop immediately after someone experiences a disturbing event, or it can occur weeks, months or even years later.

PTSD is estimated to affect about 1 in every 3 people who have a traumatic experience, but it's not clear exactly why some people develop the condition and others do not.

How can I tell if I have PTSD?

Have you have experienced a traumatic event?

If you have, do you:

  • Have vivid memories, flashbacks or nightmares?
  • Avoid things that remind you of the event?
  • Feel emotionally numb at times?
  • Feel irritable and constantly on edge but can't see why?
  • Eat more than usual, or use more alcohol or drugs than usual?
  • Feel out of control of your mood?
  • Find it more difficult to get on with other people?
  • Have to keep very busy to cope?
  • Feel depressed or exhausted?

If it is less that 6 weeks since the traumatic event, and these experiences are slowly improving, they may be part of the normal process of adjustment.

If it is more than 6 weeks since the event, and these experiences don't seem to be getting better, it is worth talking it over with a trained professional. Get in contact with one of our Keeping Well team to find out more about therapy options.

How can PTSD be helped?

Do...

  • Keep life as normal as possible.
  • Get back to your usual routine.
  • Talk about what happened with someone you trust.
  • Try relaxation exercises.
  • Go back to work.
  • Eat and exercise regularly.
  • Go back to where the traumatic event happened.
  • Take time to be with family and friends.
  • Drive with care - your concentration may be poor.
  • Be more careful generally - accidents are more likely at this time.
  • Speak to a doctor.
  • Expect to get better.

Don't...

  • Beat yourself up about it - PTSD symptoms are not a sign of weakness. They are a normal reaction, of normal people, to terrifying experiences.
  • Bottle up your feelings. If you have developed PTSD symptoms, don't keep it to yourself because treatment is usually very successful.
  • Avoid talking about it.
  • Expect the memories to go away immediately, they may be with you for quite some time.
  • Expect too much of yourself. Cut yourself a bit of slack while you adjust to what has happened.
  • Stay away from other people.
  • Drink lots of alcohol or coffee or smoke more.
  • Get overtired.
  • Miss meals.
  • Take holidays on your own.

What can interfere with getting better?

You may find that other people will:

  • Not let you talk about it
  • Avoid you
  • Be angry with you
  • Think of you as weak
  • Blame you

These are all ways in which other people protect themselves from thinking about gruesome or horrifying events. It won't help you because it doesn't give you the chance to talk over what has happened to you.

You may not be able to talk easily about it. A traumatic event can put you into a trance-like state which makes the situation seem unreal or bewildering. It is harder to deal with if you can't remember what happened, can't put it into words, or can't make sense of it.


Updated on: 21/04/2022