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What is PTSD? Symptoms, causes and how you can get help for it

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is something someone may develop if they have experienced something they find traumatic.

Not everyone who experiences trauma will develop PTSD, but those who have experienced very stressful, frightening or distressing events may develop it.

Many may have heard the term in relation to war veterans, where it was first described as "shell shock".

However, it's not only diagnosed in soldiers, and a wide range of traumatic experiences can cause PTSD.

The good thing is that with effective treatment the symptoms of PTSD can be reduced.

Here we go into further detail about what PTSD is, what the symptoms are, and how we can get help for it.

What is PTSD?

According to mental health charity Mind, PTSD is a "mental health problem you may develop after experiencing traumatic events".

The NHS also describes it as an "anxiety disorder" which is caused by "very stressful, frightening or distressing events".

Person in therapy

© Getty Images Person in therapy

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

According tot he NHS, someone who suffers from PTSD may relive the traumatic event through "nightmares and flashbacks".

As a result, they may experience feelings such as "isolation, irritability and guilt".

This could lead to problems sleeping, such as insomnia, or finding it hard to concentrate.

In addition, Mind states that someone may experience intrusive thoughts or images and physical sensations such as "pain, sweating, nausea or trembling".

What a person experiences as traumatic can vary from person to person.

Not everyone will develop PTSD from the following situations, but they could.

Some examples listed by Mind are:

  • being involved in a car crash
  • being raped or sexually assaulted
  • being abused, harassed or bullied, including racism, sexism and other types of abuse targeting your identity
  • being kidnapped, held hostage or any event in which you fear for your life
  • experiencing violence, including military combat, a terrorist attack, or any violent assault
  • seeing other people hurt or killed, including in the course of your job, sometimes called secondary trauma
  • doing a job where you repeatedly see or hear distressing things, such as the emergency services or armed forces
  • surviving a natural disaster, such as flooding, earthquakes or pandemics, such as the coronavirus pandemic
  • traumatic childbirth as a mother or partner witnessing a traumatic birth
  • losing someone close to you in particularly upsetting circumstances
  • being sectioned or getting treatment in a mental health ward
  • being diagnosed with a life-threatening condition

How can PTSD be treated?

According to the NHS, PTSD can be successfully treated, even if it develops years after a traumatic event.

However, treatment depends on the severity of symptoms, and how soon they occur after the event.

There are various treatment forms available, including psychological therapies.

Your GP can refer you to these therapies, which can include trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR).

Other alternatives includes antidepressants.

Another thing you could do is try ou the My Possible Self App, which, which is a free NHS endorsed global mental health app which provides holistic and engaging tools to the support and improve the mental wellbeing of all.

Debra Longsdale, Therapy Services Director at the Priory Group, speaking on behalf of leading free global mental health app My Possible Self explains: “Seeking help if you think you might have PTSD is really important, and the My Possible Self app has a variety of useful tools to help those that think they may have symptoms.

"I personally would recommend the guided ‘Overcoming my anxiety’ series as an avenue to helping you understand your symptoms, and to then manage them using the tools available. In addition, the ‘Drinking safely’ series can help you understand your alcohol habits with tools designed to set goals and identify risky situations and places..”

To find out more about the My Possible Self App visit www.mypossibleself.com. 

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