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 in PTSD, you can't move past the event and carry on having dreams, flashbacks or upsetting thoughts about it.
Complex 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 6 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 it 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 the child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS), an expert or a psychiatrist who can help you.
PTSD can be treated through cognitive behaviour 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.
Helplines and services available
- If you're in distress and need support, you can ring Samaritans for free at any time of the day or night.
- Freephone (UK and Republic of Ireland): 116 123 (24 hours)
- Email: [email protected]
- If you're under 19 you can confidentially call, email, or chat online about any problem big or small
Freephone 24h helpline: 0800 1111
- Sign up for a childline account on the website to be able to message a counsellor anytime without using your email address
- Chat 1:1 with an online advisor
- If you're under 25 you can talk to The Mix for free on the phone, by email or on their webchat. You can also use their phone counselling service, or get more information on support services you might need.
- Freephone: 0808 808 4994 (13:00-23:00 daily)