What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) happens after you experience something extremely frightening, like violence, abuse, rape or a life-threatening situation.
It can also affect you if you witnessed something terrible happening, such as a serious accident.
Most people take time to get over a traumatic event, but with PTSD, you can't move past the event and carry on having dreams, flashbacks or upsetting thoughts about it.
Complex PTSD (C-PTSD) is a more serious reaction to a long-lasting traumatic experience, for example abuse, neglect or frequent violence.
The symptoms of PTSD
Symptoms can appear straight after a traumatic experience, or later on. They're usually noticed within six months of the experience.
The main symptoms of PTSD are:
- flashbacks or nightmares about what happened
- avoidance and numbing, where you try to keep busy and avoid thinking about or doing things that might trigger memories of the traumatic event
- being tense and on guard all the time in case it happens again
You may also experience:
- anger or irritability
- problems sleeping or eating
- survivor's guilt, where you feel bad because others suffered more than you
- problems with alcohol or drug abuse
- muscle aches
- difficulty remembering all of the traumatic event
Just because you experience one or more of these symptoms, it doesn’t mean you’re definitely affected by PTSD. It’s important to talk to your GP to get a full diagnosis.
What to do about PTSD
Take the first step – if you've been through something traumatic and you're struggling with PTSD symptoms, talk to someone you like and trust, like a teacher, relative, counsellor or friend.
You should also see your GP. They may offer to refer you to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), an expert or a psychiatrist who can help you.
PTSD can be treated through cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which can help you find new ways to cope with your thoughts and feelings about what happened.
You may also be offered EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing), a technique that uses rapid eye movements to reduce distress from bad memories.
Tips from Activists
Our Activists and other young people share their tips and advice on PTSD:
YoungMinds Crisis Messenger
Provides free, 24/7 text support for young people across the UK experiencing a mental health crisis.
All texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors.
Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.
Texts can be anonymous, but if the volunteer believes you are at immediate risk of harm, they may share your details with people who can provide support.
Text: YM to 85258
Opening times: 24/7
If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.
Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.
Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.
Phone: 0800 1111
Opening times: 9am - midnight, 365 days a year