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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

You might get symptoms of PTSD after a traumatic experience. It can include having traumatic memories or dreams, avoiding things that remind you of an event, not being able to sleep and feeling anxious. You may feel isolated and withdrawn.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is caused by serious, traumatic or frightening experiences such as assault, accidents or natural disasters. You might have been involved in violence or war, bullied, involved in a road traffic accident. These are examples and can be treated with therapy when trauma develops, but for some people these go away with time and do not develop into PTSD.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder and it often makes people re-live the event, which adds difficulty to your day-to-day life. It might be difficult to go on public transport again, or even go to the shops. It causes distress and symptoms can be triggered by seeing, hearing or smelling something that reminds you of the trauma.

Causes might include witnessing or being involved in frightening experiences such as: violence against you; rape or sexual assault; car accidents; childbirth; seeing someone die. The severity of PTSD can change depending on who was involved and the extent of the trauma. This can include if the event involved children, was unexpected, its length, caused many deaths, and more.

Knowing that you have PTSD

Symptoms following a traumatic event become less severe over time as they come to terms with what’s happened. If the symptoms don’t go away, it’s possible you have PTSD.

It can occur in the hours, days or months after with symptoms such as:

  • Reliving what happened, having flashbacks, dreams or nightmares
  • Not being able to feel emotions
  • Not feeling connected to other people
  • Feeling unable to enjoy activities you used to enjoy
  • Staying away from situations which remind you of the event
  • Feeling on edge, panicky, upset and startled easily
  • Feeling like nowhere is safe, always on the lookout for threats
  • Problems sleeping

Different types of PTSD

PTSD isn’t just linear – people can develop ‘secondary trauma’ when supporting someone close who has experienced trauma. Even though the event happened to someone else, the attachment to the impact of the event that caused their trauma can be escalated if you have to witness or hear about traumatic anecdotes as part of your job.

You also might have ‘complex PTSD’, which describes some of the personality changes you experiences after trauma, such as: difficulty controlling emotions; feelings of worthlessness and hostility; feeling like nobody understands your story; avoiding friendships and relationships; or suicidal thoughts.

If you’re still experiencing problems after 4 weeks, or if you’re worried about your symptoms, it’s recommended that you seek medical advice. You might be referred a mental health specialist for further assessment and treatment. You may see a psychologist or psychiatrist where it will be decided which treatment is best suited to you.

How we can help

Our Information and Support Line signposts you to relevant support in your area that most fits your needs and how Change Mental Health supports people in local communities across Scotland with PTSD.

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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