Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events. Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt. They may also have problems sleeping, such as insomnia, and find concentrating difficult. These symptoms are often severe and persistent enough to have a significant impact on the person’s day-to-day life.
This is understandable, and many people find that these symptoms disappear in a relatively short period of time. But if your problems last for longer than a month, or are very extreme, you may be given a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Causes of PTSD:
The type of events that can cause PTSD include:
- serious road accidents
- violent personal assaults, such as sexual assault, mugging or robbery
- prolonged sexual abuse, violence or severe neglect
- witnessing violent deaths
- military combat
The situations we find traumatic can vary from person to person and different events can lead to PTSD. It may be that your responses have been bottled up for a long time after the traumatic event has passed. Your problems may only emerge months or sometimes years after a traumatic experience, affecting your ability to lead your life as you’d like to.
Any treatment depends on the severity of symptoms and how soon they occur after the traumatic event. Any of the following treatment options may be recommended:
- Watchful waiting – monitoring your symptoms to see whether they improve or get worse without treatment.
- Psychotherapy – such as trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR). Find psychotherapy services near you.
- Antidepressants – such as paroxetine or mirtazapine.