Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a reaction to exposure to very stressful and traumatising events.

People experience flashbacks, panic attacks and other acute symptoms. It can be treated, so it is important to get expert help.

PTSD occurs in response to exposure to a very stressful or traumatic event or an exceptionally shocking, threatening or catastrophic situation. Examples include rape, violent attack, traumatic accidents, sudden destruction of your home or community, or threat or harm to you or to your close relatives or friends. Deliberate acts of violence are more likely than natural events or accidents to result in PTSD.

PTSD is a potentially severe and long-term mental health problem that can hampers your ability to live your life to the full. People experiencing it can feel anxious for years after the trauma, whether or not they suffered a physical injury as well.

Common symptoms of PTSD include:

  • re-experiencing the event in nightmares or flashbacks
  • avoiding things or places associated with the event
  • panic attacks
  • sleep disturbance
  • poor concentration
  • depression
  • emotional numbing
  • drug or alcohol misuse and anger are also common.

Debriefing someone who has experienced trauma immediately afterwards does not prevent PTSD.

People with PTSD usually develop the symptoms immediately after the traumatic event but some people develop symptoms much later. People experiencing PTSD may not seek treatment for months or years after the onset of symptoms because they do not think they can be helped.