Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

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Laura from Rethink Mental Illness explains what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is, what the symptoms are and how to treat it.

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is an illness that you might get after a serious and frightening experience like a mugging, or traumatic event such as the death of a loved one.

Is PTSD a mental illness?

PTSD is a mental illness. It can develop after many years and can persist for many years without proper treatment.

What causes 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.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder 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; some people only begin experiencing symptoms years later.

Treatment for PTSD

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. The first thing to do is visit a doctor and get a diagnosis of PTSD. You’ll then be able to get seen by a professional counsellor or therapist.

Trauma-focussed cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is one of the most common treatments for PTSD. 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 can also help you manage certain symptoms of the disorder.

Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) is a relatively new type of therapy that has shown great potential in dealing with trauma. You will discuss the events of your trauma to a therapist whilst following a series of lights or hand movements. It’s 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. Take a look at our article on how to help someone with a mental health issue.

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

Take a look at the rest of The Mix’s mental health resources here.

  • 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.

Next Steps

By Holly Turner

Updated on 12-Apr-2023