PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events. Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt.

They may also have problems sleeping, such as insomnia, and find concentrating difficult. These symptoms are often severe and persistent enough to have a significant impact on the person’s day-to-day life.

CAUSES OF PTSD

The type of events that can cause PTSD include:

• Serious road accidents
• Violent personal assaults, such as sexual assault, mugging or robbery
• Prolonged sexual abuse, violence or severe neglect
• Witnessing violent deaths
• Military combat
• Being held hostage
• Terrorist attacks
• Natural disasters, such as severe floods, earthquakes or tsunamis

PTSD can develop immediately after someone experiences a disturbing event or it can occur weeks, months or even years later.

PTSD is estimated to affect about 1 in every 3 people who have a traumatic experience, but it’s not clear exactly why some people develop the condition and others don’t.

COMPLEX PTSD

People who repeatedly experience traumatic situations such as severe neglect, abuse or violence may be diagnosed with complex PTSD.

Complex PTSD can cause similar symptoms to PTSD and may not develop until years after the event. It’s often more severe if the trauma was experienced early in life as this can affect a child’s development.

WHEN TO SEEK MEDICAL ADVICE

It’s normal to experience upsetting and confusing thoughts after a traumatic event, but most people improve naturally over a few weeks.

You should visit your GP if you or your child are still having problems about four weeks after the traumatic experience, or if the symptoms are particularly troublesome.

If necessary, your GP can refer you to mental health specialists for further assessment and treatment.

HOW PTSD IS TREATED

PTSD can be successfully treated, even when it develops many years after a traumatic event.

Any treatment depends on the severity of symptoms and how soon they occur after the traumatic event. Any of the following treatment options may be recommended:

• Watchful waiting – monitoring your symptoms to see whether they improve or get worse without treatment.
• Psychotherapy – such as trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR). Find psychotherapy services near you.
• Antidepressants – such as paroxetine or mirtazapine.

SYMPTOMS OF POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD)

The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can have a significant impact on your day-to-day life.

In most cases, the symptoms develop during the first month after a traumatic event. However, in a minority of cases, there may be a delay of months or even years before symptoms start to appear.

Some people with PTSD experience long periods when their symptoms are less noticeable, followed by periods where they get worse. Other people have constant, severe symptoms.

The specific symptoms of PTSD can vary widely between individuals, but generally fall into the categories described below.

RE-EXPERIENCING

Re-experiencing is the most typical symptom of PTSD. This is when a person involuntarily and vividly re-lives the traumatic event in the form of:
• Flashbacks
• Nightmares
• Repetitive and distressing images or sensations
• Physical sensations – such as pain, sweating, nausea or trembling

Some people have constant negative thoughts about their experience, repeatedly asking themselves questions that prevent them from coming to terms with the event.

For example, they may wonder why the event happened to them and if they could have done anything to stop it, which can lead to feelings of guilt or shame.

AVOIDANCE AND EMOTIONAL NUMBING

Trying to avoid being reminded of the traumatic event is another key symptom of PTSD. This usually means avoiding certain people or places that remind you of the trauma, or avoiding talking to anyone about your experience.

Many people with PTSD try to push memories of the event out of their mind, often distracting themselves with work or hobbies.

Some people attempt to deal with their feelings by trying not to feel anything at all. This is known as emotional numbing. This can lead to the person becoming isolated and withdrawn, and they may also give up pursuing activities they used to enjoy.

HYPERAROUSAL (FEELING 'ON EDGE')

Someone with PTSD may be very anxious and find it difficult to relax. They may be constantly aware of threats and easily startled. This state of mind is known as hyperarousal.

Hyperarousal often leads to:
• Irritability
• Angry outbursts
• Sleeping problems (insomnia)
• Difficulty concentrating

OTHER PROBLEMS

Many people with PTSD also have a number of other problems, including:
• Other mental health problems – such as depression, anxiety or phobias
• Self-harming or destructive behaviour – such as drug misuse or alcohol misuse
• Other physical symptoms – such as headaches, dizziness, chest pains and stomach aches

PTSD sometimes leads to work-related problems and the breakdown of relationships.

PTSD IN CHILDREN

PTSD can affect children as well as adults. Children with PTSD can have similar symptoms to adults, such as having trouble sleeping and upsetting nightmares.

Like adults, children with PTSD may also lose interest in activities they used to enjoy and may have physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach aches.

However, there are some symptoms that are more specific to children with PTSD, such as:
• Bedwetting
• Being unusually anxious about being separated from a parent or other adult
• Re-enacting the traumatic event(s) through their play

WHEN TO SEEK MEDICAL ADVICE

It’s normal to experience upsetting and confusing thoughts after a traumatic event, but in most people these improve naturally over a few weeks.

You should visit your GP if you or your child are still having problems about four weeks after the traumatic experience, or if the symptoms are particularly troublesome.

Your GP will want to discuss your symptoms with you in as much detail as possible. They’ll ask whether you’ve experienced a traumatic event in the recent or distant past and whether you’ve re-experienced the event through flashbacks or nightmares.

Your GP can refer you to mental health specialists if they feel you’d benefit from treatment. See treating PTSD for more information.

Contact Numbers

MIND

Offers help and support , they hold group meetings where you can meet other people and will be offered help on ways to cope.

www.mind.org.uk

 

SAMARITANS

24 hr National Help line 116 123

This is run by volunteers who will give advice and a chance to speak to someone who understands how you feel.

www.samaritans.org

TONY DAVIS EMPLOYEE SUPPORT

Tel: 07813 596505 Or 01482 870577

Will offer support and advice on how to deal with anxiety and utilising Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to overcome any problems or difficulties you may have.

Email: tonydavis@tonydavis.karoo.co.uk

Regional Numbers

Hull
Mind – www.mindhey.co.uk
01482 240200

Luton
Mind – www.bucksmind.org.uk
01296 437328

Wigan
Mind – www.sthelensmind.org.uk
01744 677058

Doncaster
Mind – www.doncastermind.org.uk
01302 812190

Wimbledon
Mind – www.mind.org.uk
020 8788 0070

Warrington
Mind – www.mind.org.uk
0151 4953 991

Andover
Mind – www.andovermind.org.uk
01264 332297

Kent
Mind – www.mind.org.uk
01622 692383

Huntingdon Cambridge
Mind – http://www.mindincambs.org.uk/
01223 311320

Leicestershire
Mind – www.westleicestershiremind.org.uk
01455 890168

Exeter Devon
Mind – www.mindex.org.uk
01392 204493

Berkeley Gloucestershire
Mind – www.mind.org.uk
01453 54739