Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Laura from Rethink Mental Illness explains what PTSD is, and how to treat it.


PTSD can make you feel on edge or easily startled

My name is Laura Peters and I’m Head of Advice and Information at Rethink Mental Illness. 

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is an illness that you might get after a serious and frightening experience.

Can you explain the causes of PTSD?

Any experience that causes an individual to feel particularly stressed, or frightened, can result in them developing PTSD. It typically occurs after one of the following situations; a natural disaster, war, terror attacks, serious accidents, seeing someone die, or violence against you.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of PTSD can be wide ranging. It generally involves experiencing flashbacks to the event, dreams or nightmares, and feeling on edge/feeling easily startled (hyperarousal). It can also result in symptoms like a feeling of isolation from other people, or a loss of interest in activities that they once enjoyed.

The appearance of these symptoms can often be delayed, only appearing in the days after the event. In some cases, PTSD can occur much later on, with symptoms taking years to appear.

What help is available?

The treatment of PTSD can be a slow and difficult process, and there are a number of treatment options available. Finding the right one that works for you can take time.

Trauma focussed cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – A therapist will ask you to do activities or remember things that you’re finding difficult to process. In doing so, the stress of the event should lessen over time.

Stress management – to help you manage certain symptoms of the disorder.

Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) – you will discuss the events of your trauma to a therapist whilst following a series of lights or hand movements. It is not clear how this helps, but it is NICE backed and available on the NHS in certain locations.

How can I support someone who is suffering from PTSD?

PTSD is a very difficult and often stressful disorder. If you are supporting someone with PTSD, it is wise to take the time to understand their symptoms, as well as what treatments they are currently undergoing. Listen to what they feel is working best for them and work around it.

The symptoms or PTSD can be successfully managed, but this takes time and patience from all involved.

Next Steps

  • Rethink Mental Illness offers advice and support on mental health. Visit their website or call The Rethink Mental Illness Advice Service on 0300 5000 927, 9:30am - 4pm, Monday to Friday.
  • Mind offers advice and support to people with mental health problems. Their helpline runs nine to six from Monday to Friday. 0300 123 3393
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.


Updated on 15-Oct-2018