Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Symptoms, Information, Causes and Treatment


Overview: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, henceforth and commonly referred to as PTSD, is an anxiety-based condition that is caused by seeing or being involved in distressing or frightening events. Someone who suffers from PTSD will often relive traumatic events through nightmares and flashbacks, and can experience intense feelings of isolation. PTSD can have a marked impact on a person’s day to day life. PTSD is most commonly associated with soldiers and those who have encountered warfare – however anyone can suffer from PTSD.


adult army battle black and white
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Symptoms: The majority of PTSD cases appear in the first few weeks following a traumatic event. However, sometimes it can take months or even years for symptoms of PTSD to appear. Symptoms can range from being long-lasting to constant to mild. Geerally, symptoms fall into the following categories:


Re-Experiencing: The most common symptom – which sees an individual re-living a traumatic event, usually in a flashback or a nightmare. People can also have constant thoughts about the traumatic event and Ruminate about what might have been had they done something else – thus causing guilt in the process.


Avoidance: Someone who suffers from PTSD will commonly try and avoid being reminded of the event. This could take the form of avoiding people or places that remind them of the traumatic event, or simply not talking about an event.


Some people who suffer from PTSD will commonly suffer from Depression or Anxiety, or even both.


It is very normal to experience some upsetting or disturbed thoughts after a traumatic event – many people will feel this. However, if these thoughts last more than a few weeks, it should be clear that a problem is developing.



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Causes: Unlike many mental health conditions, the cause of PTSD is normally clear. PTSD tends to develop following a traumatic event or experience that causes someone grave suffering or distress. The types of events that have been known to cause PTSD are, but not limited to:


Military Combat, violence, sexual abuse, neglect, death, severe injury, diagnosis of serious health issue, hostage situation, terrorist attack, natural disasters.


Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD. It is believed around 1 in 3 people who experience traumatic events will develop PTSD. It is unknown why some people are more susceptible than others in developing PTSD. However, past mental health problems like depression and anxiety can contribute to PTSD developing after a traumatic event. Also, genetics appear to play a part. It has been surmised that people who suffer from PTSD have abnormally high levels of stress hormones.


Diagnosis: It is recommended that you see your GP if you are suffering from symptoms of PTSD. The symptoms are fairly obvious to recognise. Your GP will ask you a series of questions – which may unfortunately involve you telling them information about the traumatic experience you suffered. Once a diagnosis has been made, you will be referred to a mental health specialist. The specialist will carry out a detailed assessment of your symptoms. In some cases, you’ll be told to wait and see what happens, and see if the symptoms get better on their own. Otherwise, treatment will proceed.


Treatment: Psychotherapy is generally used to treat PTSD, with medication also often used. Psychotherapy is realistically the only true way to effectively treat PTSD – and it is never too late to seek help. Psychotherapy is a form of therapy used to treat emotional problems. Psychotherapy will be carried out by mental health professionals – together you will tackle your symptoms and attempt to produce a plan to aid your recovery.


In some cases, especially when PTSD is severe, or when therapy hasn’t worked, medications will be offered. There are actually only two medicines in the United Kingdom that are licensed for treating PTSD – both of which are SSRI Antidepressants. They are specifically Paroxetine and Sertraline. However, people suffering from PTSD have also benefitted in the past from other types of antidepressants such as Mirtazapine (Atypical)Amitriptyline (Tricyclic) and Phenelzine (MAOI). In most cases, you will be prescribed either Paroxetine or Sertraline – these are modern antidepressants with few side effects. Amitriptyline and Phenelzine can only ever be prescribed when under the supervision of a mental health specialist. These medications should help the disturbed thoughts become less prevalent in your mind, and reduce anxiety.


Living With PTSD: PTSD is a very difficult condition to live with. The distress caused by the symptoms can range in severity, but in general, PTSD can lead to several problems. Relationships and work can become difficult. There are ways however of coping. Some people carry an object or possession that reminds them of the present day. It is also worth remembering that PTSD can develop years after a traumatic event – so you should keep an eye on those close to you. It is never too late to seek help. Offering someone the chance to open up to you can also prove helpful.


Extras: – For ex-servicemen and women – a military charity. And – a UK charity for girls who have experienced abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault.