Post-traumatic stress disorder is a serious psychiatric condition which develops after a stressful event or situation. These stressful or traumatic events can be brief or last longer. However, they all have threatening or catastrophic nature. For example, this could be due to serious accidents, physical and sexual assault, abuse, childhood or domestic abuse, work-related exposure to trauma, serious health problems or childbirth experiences. Also, it happens during war and conflict, or in victims of torture.
So what symptoms are observed in PTSD? Some individuals present with “flashbacks” of traumatic events, avoidance, anger or irritability. Some people have mainly emotional problems or even relationship problems. About one in three people with serious trauma develop PTSD.
Sometimes, individuals with PTSD develop other problems. For example, alcohol problems, depression or anxiety. On occasions, there are other psychiatric problems for example phobias or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Adults or children after traumatic events, for example violence, neglect or abuse can develop complex PTSD. The symptoms of complex PTSD include:
- Feelings of shame or guilt
- Difficulty controlling emotions
- Periods of dissociation (losing attention and concentration)
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Physical symptoms (headaches, dizziness, chest pains and stomach aches)
- Relationship difficulties
- Destructive or risky behaviour incl self-harm, alcohol misuse or drug abuse
- Suicidal thoughts
PTSD responds to treatment with medication and specific therapies.