Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
PTSD is the name given to a set of symptoms that sometimes follow major traumatic events. The traumatic event can be a single incident or take place over many months or years, and might include:
- A major disaster
- Serious traffic accidents
- Rape or sexual abuse
- Domestic violence
- Physical assault
- Military trauma
- Traumatic childbirth
- Witnessing a violent death or other major traumatic event
- Other situations in which a person was very afraid, horrified, helpless or felt their life was in danger.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
PTSD sufferers often experience repeated and intrusive distressing memories of the event. There may also be a feeling of reliving (or ‘re-experiencing’) the event through ‘flashbacks’ or ‘nightmares’, which can be very distressing and disorientating. There can also be physical reactions such as shaking and sweating.
Because these memories can be very intense and upsetting, some PTSD sufferers may avoid people or situations that remind them of the trauma, or try to ignore the memories and avoid talking about the event. Some people may also forget significant parts of the traumatic event. Other people will think about the event constantly, which stops them coming to terms with it (they may, for instance, ask themselves why the event happened to them or how it could have been prevented).
PTSD sufferers may have emotions or feelings that are difficult to deal with, such as guilt or shame, or they may feel that they do not deserve help. They may also feel anxious or irritable, and find it difficult to concentrate and sleep. For some people it can mean that doing ordinary things like going to work or school or going out with friends become very difficult.
Who might develop PTSD?
Anybody involved in a traumatic event can develop PTSD. A range of factors can contribute to whether someone might develop PTSD. These include: the nature of the event itself, how the person feels they coped at the time, previous trauma history, previous history of other mental health difficulties and how other people support and react to the person afterwards.
How common is PTSD?
Up to one third of people who have experienced a traumatic event develop some PTSD symptoms. Studies estimate that around 7% of people will suffer from PTSD at some point in their lives. Other problems such as depression and anxiety disorders are common alongside PTSD. Increased alcohol use and drug use can also become a problem for some people.