What is it?
Any of us can, without warning, go through a traumatic event that is overwhelming, frightening, life-threatening (to ourselves or others) and beyond our control. This could be:
- Getting a diagnosis of a serious illness
- Having (or seeing) a serious road accident
- The unexpected injury or violent death of someone close
- Being involved in a major incident involving the emergency services.
After such an experience, most people feel distressed and can have symptoms for up to six weeks. Many get over it without needing help, but about one in three people go on with these symptoms for many months or years. This is post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
Less dramatic, but longer-lasting traumas can have a similar impact. These include continuing physical or sexual abuse in the home, mistreatment in prisons and torture.
PTSD symptoms are not a sign of weakness. They are the normal reaction of normal people to terrifying experiences. If you think you are suffering from PTSD, don't avoid other people, drink or smoke a lot, miss sleep or meals.
How do we know it's happening?
After the traumatic event a person can feel grief-stricken, depressed, anxious, guilty and angry. In PTSD they may also:
- Have flashbacks and nightmares, reliving the experience in their mind, again and again
- Avoid thinking about the experience and feeling upset, by keeping busy and avoiding anything or anyone that reminds you of it
- Be on guard staying alert all the time, not relaxing, feeling anxious and being unable to sleep
- Get physical symptoms aches and pains, diarrhoea, irregular heartbeats, headaches, feelings of panic and fear, depression
- Start drinking too much alcohol or using drugs (including painkillers).
The symptoms usually start within six months and sometimes only a few weeks after the trauma.
What we offer
We work closely with GPs to assist with diagnosis and can offer a range of treatments designed to help. These are almost always talking treatments or other psychological therapies. Occasionally, we may offer medication if we think it would help.
Most people can be helped even if affected very severely and the chances of significant improvement and recovery are good.