Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a group of stress reactions that can develop after we witness a traumatic event, such as death, serious injury or sexual violence to ourselves or to others. PTSD can happen after we've been through one traumatic event, or after repeated exposure to trauma. Sometimes, PTSD can develop after hearing details about devastating and traumatic events many times, like the experience of some emergency workers. It's important to seek help to manage PTSD. There are effective treatments for PTSD, and you can feel better.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS?
People with PTSD often experience feelings of panic or extreme fear, similar to the fear they felt during the traumatic event. A person with PTSD experiences four main types of difficulties.
It's not unusual for people with PTSD to experience other mental health problems at the same time. These may have developed directly in response to the traumatic event or have followed the PTSD. These additional problems, most commonly depression, anxiety and alcohol or drug use, are more likely to occur if PTSD has persisted for a long time.
TREATMENTS AND SOLUTIONS
Many people experience some of the symptoms of PTSD in the first couple of weeks after a traumatic event, but most recover on their own or with the help of family and friends. For this reason, treatment does not usually start until about two weeks after a traumatic experience. Even though formal treatment may not commence, it is important during those first few days and weeks to get whatever help is needed.
Support from family and friends is very important for most people. Trying, as far as possible, to minimize other stressful life experiences allows the person to focus more on his/her recovery. If a person feels very distressed at any time after a traumatic event, he/she should talk to a doctor or other health professional. If a person experiences symptoms of PTSD that persist beyond two weeks, a doctor or a mental health professional may recommend starting treatment for PTSD.
Effective treatments are available. Most involve psychological treatment (talking therapy), but medication can also be prescribed in some cases. Drug treatments are not recommended within four weeks of symptoms appearing unless the severity of the person’s distress cannot be managed by psychological means alone. Generally, it’s best to start with psychological treatment rather than use medication as the first and only solution to the problem.