Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a response to the experience of a traumatic event. This may emerge months or sometimes years after the traumatic event and affects your ability to lead your life as you’d like to.

Traumatic events are usually classed as incidents that involve a serious threat to your life or your health or observing such an event. Traumatic events can include: sexual abuse/rape, violent crime, serious accidents (such as car accidents), experiences of soldiers during war, difficult childbirth and many others.

What Are The Symptoms?

If you have faced a traumatic experience, you may simply feel emotionally numb to begin with, and feelings of distress may not emerge straight away.
But sooner or later, you are likely to develop emotional and physical reactions, and changes in behaviour, which may include some of the following:

Reliving aspects of the trauma

• vivid flashbacks (feeling that the trauma is happening all over again)
• intrusive thoughts and images
• nightmares
• intense distress at real or symbolic reminders of the trauma

Avoiding Memories

• keeping busy
• avoiding situations that remind you of the trauma
• repressing memories
(being unable to remember aspects of the event)
• feeling detached, cut off and emotionally numb
• being unable to express affection
• feeling there’s no point in planning for the future

Being Easily Upset or Angry

• disturbed sleep
• irritability and aggressive behaviour
• lack of concentration
• extreme alertness
• panic response to anything to do with the trauma
• being easily startled

These are all quite common reactions to a traumatic event, and many people find the symptoms will disappear in a relatively short period of time. But if they last for longer than a month, or they are very extreme, you may be given a diagnosis of PTSD.

You may also have other symptoms, such as severe anxiety, a phobia or depression.
You may develop a dissociative disorder or suicidal feelings. There’s no time limit on distress, and some individuals may not develop post-traumatic symptoms until many years after the event.

Treatment Options for PTSD

The treatment of PTSD can be complex. Some medications are available for the management of the symptoms for PTSD but there are not any specific medications to target all PTSD symptoms. Medications such as sleeping tablets, anti-depressants, anxiolytics, sedatives and anti-psychotics can be used to help manage the condition. Your GP or Psychiatrist can help to decide which may be right for you.

Talking treatments that can be used to help can include:

  • • Counselling (which could be trauma-specific counselling, such as that provided by the Rape and Sexual Abuse Service – see RASA in our support and advice page)
  • • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)
  • • Trauma-Focused Therapy
  • • Eye-Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy
  • • Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT)

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