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A guide for young people PTSD

If you think you may be affected by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you're not alone. Find out more about the condition and what support is available.

What is PTSD?

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PTSD doesn't just happen to soldiers, anyone can experience trauma

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.

If you think you might be affected by PTSD, you are not alone. It can be really scary, but help is available.

Your guide to support

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

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.

How to speak to your GP

You may also experience:

What to do about PTSD

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One step at a time

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.

Reaching out for help

Treating PTSD

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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.

Find out more about counselling and therapy

Tips from our Activists

Our Activists and other young people share their tips and advice on PTSD.

  • You are not alone in how you feel. There is no straightforward or right way into recovery, and setbacks are normal.
  • Here's some things that help me with flashbacks; cold shower to ground myself, writing it down and ripping up the paper, talking to someone about it, breathing techniques, mindfulness. You got this!
  • Whilst the flashbacks and painful memories seem so real right now, remember that in this moment you are safe.
  • I always find talking to someone I trust helpful in reassuring me and helping me balance my thoughts.
  • Remember to take into account any of your triggers and ensure that the people around you support you and respect your boundaries and triggers.
  • It’s okay, take a deep breath. Don’t be scared, you’re safe now. There are people that love you and will take care of you.
  • It’s okay to feel this way, reach out for help if you need because it’s always there. that moment may be hard to forget but it will get better.
  • Find something to occupy your time rather than going back to past memories such as a new hobby like learning a new instrument.

Get help now

Where to get help

If you're struggling with PTSD symptoms, or just need extra support dealing with something tough, here are some services which can help you.

  • YoungMinds Textline

    Text YM to 85258

    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.

    Opening times:
    24/7
  • Samaritans

    Whatever you're going through, you can contact the Samaritans for support.

    Opening times:
    24/7
  • Childline

    If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.

    Sign up for a free Childline locker (real name or email address not needed) to use their free 1-2-1 counsellor chat and email support service.

    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.

    Opening times:
    9am - midnight, 365 days a year
  • The Mix

    Offers support to anyone under 25 about anything that’s troubling them.

    Email support available via their online contact form.

    Free 1-2-1 webchat service available.

    Free short-term counselling service available.

    Opening times:
    4pm - 11pm, seven days a week