What is Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD)
If something extremely traumatic or life threatening happens to us or if we see it happen to someone else it can affect us physically and mentally and affect the way we think about things.
You might develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) if you experience something where you feel really frightened, helpless or like you might die. You could experience PTSD if you have been involved in or witnessed an accident or if you have been abused or raped. Many young people who experience horrible things recover without experiencing PTSD but some people do develop it.
There are three main types of symptoms of PTSD:
Flashbacks or nightmares
You keep remembering the traumatic event and get flashbacks or nightmares and keep reliving the event.
Avoidance and numbing
You are scared to relive the event or think about it and so you keep yourself really busy to keep your mind occupied. You may keep busy at work or college and avoid anything that reminds you of the event.
Being on guard and unable to relax
You may feel anxious all the time and feel unable to let your guard down, for fear that the traumatic event will happen again. You might feel jumpy and irritable.
Younger children can also have PTSD, but instead of vividly remembering the event and having flashbacks, they might re-enact the experience through play, have unpleasant dreams, or have problems sleeping.
Other symptoms of people who have PTSD include:-
- anxiety (see our pages on anxiety)
- problems sleeping
- problems eating
- anger (see our pages on anger)
- guilt (at being a survivor).
- depression (see our pages on depression)
- drinking too much alcohol/taking drugs
- muscle aches.
You may experience PTSD immediately after a traumatic event or it may start weeks, months or years later although symptoms would usually appear within six months.
Most people who have experienced a traumatic event would experience symptoms of PTSD for the first few weeks after. Some people come to terms with what has happened in their own way but around one in 3 people will develop PTSD.
People who have repeatedly experienced severe neglect or abuse as an adult or as a child or severe repeated violence or abuse as an adult, such as torture or abusive imprisonment may experience complex PTSD.
If you have complex PTSD, as well as the symptoms of PTSD, you may also:-
- feel shame and guilt
- feel numb
- can't enjoy anything
- use street drugs, alcohol, or harm yourself to control emotions
- cut yourself off from what is going on around you
- have physical symptoms
- find that you can't talk about your emotions
- want to kill yourself-
- take risks and do things on the 'spur of the moment'.
It is worse if the traumatic event happened at an early age, was caused by a parent or carer, went on for a long time and was severe.
See our next section for more information on getting help for PTSD