Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that can occur any time after a traumatic event. A traumatic event can be defined as an event where we can see that we are in danger, or where we witness other people dying or being injured; however, even hearing about an unexpected death or injury of a close friend or family member can lead to PTSD. 

Symptoms of PTSD

PTSD symptoms usually develop immediately after a traumatic event; however, in some cases (less than 15%) symptom onset may be delayed by weeks, months and sometimes even years. In PTSD there may be times where symptoms slip into remission,  bringing a false sense of security only to bring disappointment when symptoms return to the same initial level. 

The symptoms of PTSD can be separated into three core symptoms and then other symptoms:

  1. Re-experiencing - This manifests via flashbacks or nightmares, they are usually so realistic that one can actually feel like they're reliving the  experience. You may also feel the  same emotional and physical sensations associated with the event, such as smell, fear and even pain.
  2. Avoidance - When it is too upsetting to relive the experience over and over, you distract yourself by avoiding anything, anyone or anywhere that reminds you of the trauma.
  3. Hyper vigilance - This is ‘being on guard’; you cannot relax and are constantly alert and looking out for danger. It can be difficult to sleep, and others may notice your jumpiness and irritable state. 

Other Symptoms of PTSD

- Depression

- Anxiety

- Phobias

- Substance abuse

- Physical symptoms (sweating, shaking, dizziness, upset stomach, headaches, chest pain)


Reading on PTSD

  • ‘Understanding Trauma: How to Overcome Post-Traumatic Stress’ (2010) by Dr. Roger Baker
  • ‘The Survivor’s Guide: To Recovery from Rape and Sexual Abuse’ (2005) by Robert Kelly, Fay Maxted, Elizabeth Campbell.
  • ‘Overcoming Childhood Trauma: A Self Help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioural Techniques’ (2000) by Dr. Helen Kennerley. 
  • NHS on PTSD