Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by a single or multiple distressing and/or frightening events. It can develop immediately after experiencing the event, or even months or years later in some cases of complex PTSD. Most of us will experience a short-term distress reaction in response to an event which we find traumatic. However, this usually resolves without the need for professional intervention. Following a traumatic event, approximately two in three people who experience initial difficulties coping will get better without treatment within a few weeks. For one in three of these people, this reaction can be longer lasting and professional help is usually required.
PTSD can be caused by a variety of different experiences including: direct experience of a traumatic event; witnessing a traumatic event in person; learning that someone close to you experienced or was threatened by a traumatic event; or being repeatedly exposed to graphic details of traumatic events (e.g. first responders). Examples of the types of events which could cause this reaction include: accidents, bereavement, medical emergencies, violence, natural disasters, war, prolonged bullying, or neglect and abuse. PTSD can be an incredibly difficult and distressing experience which can drastically restrict daily functioning and well-being. It often involves reliving the traumatic event in the form of flashbacks and nightmares and can be paired with feelings of isolation, irritability, and guilt. Whilst the symptoms can be severe and debilitating there are a number of successful treatments available.
Actions that can help
- Whilst it is normal to experience upsetting and confusing thoughts and experiences following a traumatic event, you should visit your GP if these symptoms are still present more than four weeks after the event.
- Learn some specific techniques to manage flashbacks such as: focusing on your breathing, carrying an object that brings you to the present moment, telling yourself you’re safe, comforting yourself, keeping a diary, and learning grounding techniques. For more information see Mind
- You may find it helpful to join a self-help or support group. There are many resources that can be shared that will help you manage your PTSD. For examples of where to find these groups please see: Combat Stress, Rape Crisis, Victim Support, and CRUSE.
- Whilst undergoing treatment for PTSD, ensure to provide yourself with plenty of self-care. Recovery can be difficult and tiring so it’s important to look after all aspects of your physical and mental health during this time.
- Learn to identify your triggers and share these with those around you. This can help both yourself and others to better manage your anxiety.