Post-traumatic stress disorder

People who experience or witness traumatic or life-threatening events may develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress, commonly known as PTSD. Events which can contribute to PTSD include those where you felt as if your life or the lives of others were in danger or you felt you had no control over what was happening, witnessing others being injured or dying or being physically harmed yourself.

PTSD can develop soon after a traumatic event. However, it may develop many months or even years later. PTSD is a natural human reaction to having experienced traumatic or life-threatening events. These could include events during military service or at other times in your life, including childhood.

People with a diagnosis of PTSD usually experience a range of symptoms, including:

  • Having unwanted memories or nightmares of the traumatic event
  • Feeling as though you are reliving the event
  • Having a strong emotional or physical response to reminders of the event
  • Avoiding thinking or talking about the event or avoiding things, people or places that reminds you of the event
  • Engaging less with activities you used to enjoy and socially withdrawing
  • Having feelings of guilt or shame
  • Having negative thoughts about yourself, others or the world in general
  • Feeling angry and irritable
  • Feeling very jumpy
  • Constantly looking out for possible threats or danger
  • Difficulties concentrating or sleeping;
  • Constantly feeling anxious or on edge
  • Suicidal thoughts.

Contrary to common myths, there is treatment available for PTSD. Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) are both recommended by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE). There is good evidence that they can help reduce the symptoms of PTSD.