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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

You might get symptoms of PTSD after a traumatic experience. It can include having traumatic memories or dreams

Most of us at some points in our lives experience a psychological trauma, which means being involved in a life-threatening situation or witnessing a death or serious injury. Trauma can either be single (such as a fire or a road traffic accident) or complex (events or situations that happen again and again, such as childhood abuse or domestic violence).

After experiencing trauma, we are likely to notice some changes in our mood, to feel more anxious, or to find it hard to sleep. For most of us, these difficulties are temporary and they pass after a few months. But for some of us, these difficulties continue for many months or even years. When this happens, we may go on to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).


NHS Scotland define PTSD as trauma and all of the following:

  • Re-experiencing (eg dreams or intrusive thoughts about what happened)
  • Avoiding places, people or activities that remind us of the trauma
  • Altered feelings or mood (eg depression, anxiety, agitation)

Complex PTSD has three additional criteria:

  • Emotional dysregulation (eg anger, panic attacks)
  • Feeling worthless or a failure
  • Difficulties with close relationships


It is not possible to predict who will develop PTSD, but some factors that make it more likely are:

  • Lack of social support and positive role models
  • Previous trauma or witnessing trauma happening to someone else
  • Multiple Adverse Childhood Experiences such as physical abuse, or living with someone who misused alcohol or spent time in prison
  • Life stressors, particularly if they are multiple and long term such as poverty, unemployment, ill health, racism
  • Genetic neurological factors

However, the good news is that we can recover from PTSD if we take some concrete steps and get support. Some of us need support through our GP, but it is important to also talk about our thoughts and feelings to friends, family or people who have had similar experiences in our community. Taking some exercise, even a short walk every day, watching what we eat and drink, and learning what is going on in our brains and bodies will also help.

With some understanding of the common symptoms of PTSD, we can get back some sense of control and develop self-soothing strategies, for example belly breathing to reduce feelings of panic.

These are not easy steps and it does take some work, but acceptance and support from other people can overcome feelings of shame and enable us to recover. Remember, “Trauma is history, not destiny!”


Our Advice and Support Service is open Monday to Friday, 10 am to 4 pm, where advisers can signpost you to local support that most fits your needs, including our Change Mental Health services. We offer initial advice on money worries and help to deal with emergencies.

Contact 0808 8010 515, email us at or fill out the enquiry form on the Advice and Support Service page.

Our Signature Project runs in Edinburgh and operates a drop-in service for people seeking help with their mental health, particularly for men needing support with PTSD.


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