PTSD, or posttraumatic stress disorder, is a set of reactions that can occur after someone has been through a traumatic event [link to Recovery – What are traumatic events?]. The chance of developing PTSD depends on the type of event experienced, but about 5 to 10 per cent of Australians will suffer from PTSD at some point in their lives.
Could I have posttraumatic stress disorder?
The main symptoms of PTSD are:
- Re-living the traumatic event through distressing, unwanted memories, vivid nightmares and/or flashbacks. This can also include feeling very upset or having intense physical reactions such as heart palpitations or being unable to breathe when reminded of the traumatic event.
- Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event, including activities, places, people, thoughts or feelings that bring back memories of the trauma.
- Negative thoughts and feelings such as fear, anger, guilt, or feeling flat or numb a lot of the time. A person might blame themselves or others for what happened during or after the traumatic event, feel cut-off from friends and family, or lose interest in day-to-day activities.
- Feeling wound-up. This might mean having trouble sleeping or concentrating, feeling angry or irritable, taking risks, being easily startled, and/or being constantly on the lookout for danger.
It is not unusual for people with PTSD to experience other mental health problems as well, like depression [link to Recovery – Effects of trauma – Depression] or anxiety [link to Recovery – Effects of trauma – Anxiety]. Some people may develop a habit of using alcohol or drugs [link to Recovery – Effects of trauma – Alcohol and substance use] as a way of coping.
If you have experienced something traumatic and are still having problems two weeks or more later, talk to your GP or a mental health professional.
If you are struggling to cope after a traumatic event, talk to your GP. You don’t need to keep feeling like this. Effective treatments for PTSD are available and you can get better.