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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological and physical condition that is caused by very frightening or distressing events. It occurs in up to 30% of people who experience traumatic events.  The Royal College of Psychiatrists uses several criteria to help decide whether someone who has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event has post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These include:

  • having vivid memories, flashbacks or nightmares,
  • trying to avoid things that remind you of the event,
  • sometimes feeling emotionally numb,
  • often feeling irritable and anxious for no apparent reason,
  • eating more than usual, drinking alcohol or using drugs more than usual,
  • being unable to control your mood,
  • finding it increasingly difficult to get on with others,
  • having to keep very busy to cope, and/or
  • feeling depressed or exhausted

If it is less than six weeks since you experienced the traumatic event, and your symptoms are starting to improve, they may be part of the natural coping process.

However, it is a good idea to discuss your feelings with your GP if your symptoms do not appear to be improving more than six weeks since the traumatic event.

Visiting your GP

As PTSD affects everyone differently, your GP will want to discuss your symptoms with you in as much detail as possible.

Your GP will ask you whether you have experienced a traumatic event, either in the recent or distant past, and whether you have re-experienced the event through flashbacks or nightmares. They may also ask you questions about your overall state of health, and whether you are having problems sleeping or you are having sleep disturbances. This information will help them decide whether you need a referral for psychological therapies (cognitive behavioural therapy or eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing are recommended for post traumatic stress disorder), another type of help, or whether “watchful waiting” is the best treatment because you are starting to get better.

There is free NHS Therapy available in Kent and Medway, you can self refer to this service.  To find out about your local services go to the Live It Well NHS Therapy pages by following the link.

Other sources of help

The Combat Stress Support Helpline: freephone 0800 138 1619.

Mental Health Matters helpline 0800 107 0160. This helpline offers confidential, emotional support and guidance and is available 24 hours a day, every day.

For more information on post traumatic stress disorder see NHS Choices by clicking here.

Mind have also produced some information on PTSD which you can access by clicking here.

Moodjuice have also produced a printable (or online) self help guide which you can access by clicking here.

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