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.
If you live in England and are aged 18 or over, you can access NHS talking therapies services for anxiety and depression.
A GP can refer you, or you can refer yourself directly without a referral.
NHS talking therapies services offer:
talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), counselling, other therapies, and guided self-help
help for common mental health problems, like anxiety and depression
It’s normal to experience upsetting and confusing thoughts after a traumatic event, but most people improve naturally over a few weeks.
You should see a GP if you or your child are still having problems about 4 weeks after the traumatic experience, or if the symptoms are particularly troublesome.
If necessary, your GP can refer you to mental health specialists for further assessment and treatment.
PTSD can be successfully treated, even when it develops many years after a traumatic event.
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
talking therapies – such as trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR)
You can refer yourself directly to a talking therapies service.