Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex PTSD (cPTSD) are severe anxiety disorders which can develop after a person has been involved in or witnessed a traumatic event or series of events. Our practitioners can help process trauma, and may recommend an eye movement treatment, EMDR, which has a good evidence basis for treating PTSD.
After a traumatic event, people with PTSD may find themselves oversensitive to sudden noise or movement. PTSD is characterised by reliving what happened (in flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, nightmare and panic attacks) and raised anxiety (feeling irritable, getting overwhelmed when reminded of the experience, loss of focus, feeling jumpy).
People with PTSD might also feel like the experience has changed their whole outlook – for example, feeling unable to trust or feel understood by anyone, or feel safe anywhere. They might also blame themselves, and have overwhelming feelings that are hard to know how to cope with safely.
A relatively new diagnosis, cPTSD is a separate PTSD diagnosis – often for people who survived a series of traumas, or a traumatic experience over a period of time. Alongside PTSD symptoms, people might also experience hopelessness and poor self-esteem, struggle to regulate their emotions, feel dissociated, or face suicidal thoughts. People might have cPTSD if they experienced prolonged or multiple traumas.
Not everyone with experience of trauma develops PTSD, and we don’t have a good understanding of the difference in recovery.
It is normal to feel anxious after trauma, but people who experience trauma are at increased risk of developing anxiety disorders, including PTSD.
If recovering from trauma is taking longer than expected, or has unusual features it may help to talk to a therapist – even if the symptoms turn out not to be PTSD or an anxiety disorder.
PTSD may come on straight after trauma, or it might have a delayed onset (weeks, months or years). But with treatment, PTSD can be treated and managed. THe NHS advises seeking help for PTSD symptoms four weeks after a traumatic event.
The NHS estimates that one in three people who’ve survived traumatic experience have to cope with PTSD.
PTSD comes from traumatic experience, but people’s perception of what constitutes ‘trauma’ varies widely. People with PTSD have commonly survived experiences during which they realised they might die: war, conflict, assault, surgery, health emergencies and traumatic childbirth.
People who work in high-risk roles (e.g. forces, emergency services) are at greater risk of developing PTSD. People who have been through illegal migration, the asylum system or the care system are also thought to be at greater risk.
Therapy is a recommended treatment for PTSD.
A special form of CBT, trauma-focused CBT is a behavioural therapy that helps people adapt to life after a traumatic event.
A relatively new therapy, EMDR helps people talk very gradually about an experience of trauma in a safe, controlled environment, then uses eye movements to help ‘desensitise’ the memory of the experience.
Some people find that medication such as antidepressants helps reduce symptoms and support therapy for PTSD.
A mental health charity specifically for forces and veterans and their families.
A PTSD charity for the general public.