What is it?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a reaction to being through a severely distressing experience; this can include experiencing it yourself, seeing it occur to others, hearing about it in relation to a close friend or loved one, or being exposed to it repeatedly (such as police officers, social workers, or first responders).

Most people have heard about this in relation to the armed forces but it can also be the result of many other situations.

What does it feel like?

The symptoms of this may include nightmares about what happened, having flashbacks (feeling like you are back at the time of the event and reliving it), thinking about the event, even when you don’t want to, being fearful or on edge and avoiding any reminders of what happened, being extremely ‘jumpy’ or hyper-vigilant, or feeling numb.  It may be the result of a single event (for example a car accident) or multiple events over time (such as domestic violence or abuse). 

PTSD is often accompanied by symptoms of depression and other anxiety disorders; it may affect your sleep, appetite and relationships with other people in your life.  It may interrupt your memory and concentration and some people may also experience a sensation of detachment from their bodies or from the world around them.  Because of the many symptoms that can be associated with PTSD, it can often be diagnosed as something else in the first instance. 

Potential therapy options

Getting treatment for PTSD is important as it can have a significant impact on your wellbeing.  In most cases, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or eye-movement desensitisation and reprocessing therapy (EMDR) are considered to be the most effective treatment.  Counselling approaches are considered less desirable as they have not shown to be as effective, but in some exceptional cases they may be considered.

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