Do I Have PTSD?

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can start after any traumatic event. A traumatic event is one where we can see that we are in danger, our life is threatened, or where we see other people dying or being injured. Some typical traumatic events would be:

  • Serious road accidents
  • Military combat
  • Violent personal assault (sexual assault, physical attack, abuse, robbery, mugging)
  • Being taken hostage
  • Terrorist attack
  • Being a prisoner-of-war
  • Natural or man-made disasters
  • Being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness

Even hearing about an unexpected injury or violent death of a family member or close friend can start PTSD.


When does PTSD start?

The symptoms of PTSD can start after a delay of weeks, or even months. They usually appear within 6 months of a traumatic event

What does PTSD feel like? Many people feel grief-stricken, depressed, anxious, guilty and angry after a traumatic experience. As well as these understandable emotional reactions, there are three main types of symptoms produced by such an experience:

  1. Flashbacks & Nightmares: You find yourself re-living the event, again and again. This can happen both as a “flashback” in the day, and as nightmares when you are asleep. These can be so realistic that it feels as though you are living through the experience all over again. You see it in your mind, but may also feel the emotions and physical sensations of what happened – fear, sweating, smells, sounds, pain.Ordinary things can trigger off flashbacks. For instance, if you had a car crash in the rain, a rainy day might start a flashback
  2. Avoidance & Numbing: It can be just too upsetting to re-live your experience over and over again. So you distract yourself. You keep your mind busy by losing yourself in a hobby, working very hard, or spending your time absorbed in crossword or jigsaw puzzles. You avoid places and people who remind you of the trauma, and try not to talk about it.You may deal with the pain of your feelings by trying to feel nothing at all – by becoming emotionally numb. You communicate less with other people, who then find it hard to live or work with you.
  3. Being “On Guard” You find that you stay alert all the time, as if you are looking out for danger. You can’t relax. This is called “hyper vigilance”. You feel anxious and find it hard to sleep. Other people will notice that you are jumpy and irritable

Other Symptoms Emotional reactions to stress are often accompanied by:

  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Diarrhoea
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Headaches
  • Feelings of panic and fear
  • Depression
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Using drugs (including painkillers)

What makes PTSD worse?

The more disturbing the experience, the more likely you are to develop PTSD. The most traumatic events:

  • Are sudden and unexpected
  • Go on for a long time
  • You are trapped and can’t get away
  • Are man-made
  • Cause many deaths
  • Cause mutilation and loss of arms or legs
  • Involve children

How can I tell if I have PTSD?

Have you have experienced a traumatic event of the sort described at the start of this leaflet? If you have, do you:

  • Have vivid memories, flashbacks or nightmares?
  • Avoid things that remind you of the event?
  • Feel emotionally numb at times?
  • Feel irritable and constantly on edge but can’t see why?
  • Eat more than usual, or use more drink or drugs than usual?
  • Feel out of control of your mood?
  • Find it more difficult to get on with other people?
  • Have to keep very busy to cope?
  • Feel depressed or exhausted?

If it is less that 6 weeks since the traumatic event and these experiences are slowly improving, they may be part of the normal process of adjustment. If it is more than 6 weeks since the event, and these experiences don’t seem to be getting better, it is worth talking it over with your doctor.

If your doctor has suspicions that you may be suffering from PTSD they may refer you for treatment on the NHS. Unfortunately waiting lists for this therapy are extensive. If you would like to start working on your PTSD now you can call us, Sarah or Jane , on 0114 383 0004.


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