What is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder which can develop in response to experiencing very stressful, frightening or distressing events such as:
- Serious accidents
- Traumatic procedures
- Domestic violence
- Violent personal assault: muggings, robbery or sexual assault
- Witnessing a violent death
- Being diagnosed with life threatening illness
- Military combat
- Involvement in terrorist attacks
- Natural disasters
- Being held hostage
Who can get post-traumatic stress disorder?
PTSD affects up to 30% of people who experience a traumatic event. It affects around 5% of men and 10% of women at some point during their life. PTSD can occur at any age, including during childhood.
What are the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder?
Someone with PTSD will often relive the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks. They may also experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt, have problems sleeping, (such as insomnia) and find concentrating difficult. Symptoms can develop at any time after the event and may include physical and emotional responses.
Symptoms are often severe and persistent enough to have a significant impact on the person’s day-to-day life. Many people feel grief-stricken, depressed, anxious, guilty and angry after a traumatic experience and may experience:
- Flashbacks and nightmares – reliving the event during wakefulness or during sleep
- Avoidance and numbing – avoiding people and places associated with the event or by trying to feel nothing at all
- Being over alert – unable to relax or becoming hyper-vigilant
- Physical symptoms can include muscles aches and pains, irregular heartbeats, headaches and diarrhoea
How can post-traumatic stress disorder be treated?
Effective treatment is available and you can recover from PSTD. The management of PTSD will vary depending individual circumstances and the severity of the symptoms. Where symptoms are mild and have been present for less than four weeks after the trauma ‘watchful waiting’ should be considered.
For people with more moderate to severe symptoms, a combination of management is recommended which may include:
- Psychological therapy
- A course of trauma-focused psychological treatment such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) or sensory motor therapy.
- Drug treatments for may be considered but is not usually a routine first-line treatment for adults
How can The Insight Network help?
At The Insight Network our team of therapists and psychiatrists can offer an integrated approach combining, as appropriate, the right mix of trauma-focused therapy and medication to treat both the physical and psychological symptoms.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellent (NICE) guidelines recommend that psychological therapies such as trauma-focused CBT or EMDR should be offered before medication whenever possible.
CBT is a form of therapy in which feelings are linked to the way we think and behave. The aim is to identify and replace negative thoughts so that you can change your behaviour. Trauma-focused CBT has been designed to help people overcome and remember traumatic experiences with less distress and more control.
EMDR is a form of psychotherapy which uses side-to-side eye movements while recalling the traumatic incident in order to reduce its influence over your mind and promote recovery and readjustment.