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What is PTSD?

Post after      Traumatic – Wounded      

Stress – form of stress      Disorder or Injury

What is PTSD?

Types of PTSD?

Trauma and stressor-related injury caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events.

Many symptoms that affect both mind and body.

The symptoms are:
Severe and persistent
Significant impact on person’s day-to-day life.


Can develop immediately after an experience or occur weeks, months or years later.

There are various types of PTSD and associated conditions. Below we explain the differences.

A normal stress response is one where you might feel distressed, irritated, fed up or really low about certain stressful events.  This might affect your sleep or your ability to get on with work or your social or family life, and it might mean you don’t enjoy things as much.  Everyday situations like minor injuries, illnesses, relationship problems, financial concerns and job challenges can all lead to stress. Typically, stress can be effectively managed with the support of loved ones or peers or self help, but if your symptoms are getting worse or you feel overwhelmed and think you are burning out, seek help from individual or group therapy or from Occupational Health or Employment Assistance Schemes (which usually offers counselling support and practical advice). Individuals suffering from stress should see a recovery within a few weeks. Being more aware about stress management and wellbeing can also really help you to recover from stressful experiences.  Stress attacks our self-esteem and the immune system: the sooner you reach out for help, the less likely your symptoms will worsen.  Don’t suffer alone.

Acute Stress Disorder can have the same causes and very similar symptoms to PTSD.  However, Acute Stress Disorder is what some people will experience in the first month after a traumatic event; if your traumatic symptoms continue for more than a month or are getting worse, then your condition has become chronic and so would attract a diagnosis of PTSD. Many people who experience Acute Stress Disorder recover well and do not develop PTSD, provided they find ways to talk about the trauma, to accept its impact and build greater awareness about the condition.  Acute Stress Disorder can be treated with individual or group psychological therapy which can be offered by a counsellor (including counselling through your work-based Occupational Health or Employee Assistance Schemes), psychotherapist or psychologist; some of the symptoms can also be eased with medication which your GP can provide.

PTSD is a chronic condition that can occur after exposure to single or multiple distressing events.  PTSD characteristically involves re-experiencing the trauma (e.g. flashbacks or nightmares); avoidance of thoughts or emotions or situations that could remind you of the trauma by ignoring signs of stress or through emotional numbing; having extremely negative thoughts and emotions about the self, others and the future; and hyperarousal or hypersensitivity which means you feel jumpy, reactive, have problems sleeping and are constantly vigilant for any threats. The treatment of PTSD requires specialist trauma-focussed therapy from a trained psychological therapist, and may also necessitate medication, which a GP or psychiatrist can provide

Complex PTSD is a new diagnostic condition that was developed by the World Health Organisation in 2018, in recognition that many people with PTSD also present with additional social and emotional difficulties which make the trauma harder to treat.  Complex PTSD can be caused by multiple traumatic events, or prolonged exposure to a single event (e.g. being taken hostage or sexual or domestic abuse, or repeated exposure to systemic conflicts such as community violence or war).  Individuals with complex PTSD may often have other diagnosable conditions which complicates their PTSD presentation, such as a personality disorder, psychosis, a head injury, neurodevelopment conditions such as Autistic Spectrum Disorder or Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), substance abuse, eating disorders, panic attacks, rage, chronic depression, to name a few.  What makes Complex PTSD distinct from PTSD is that, as well re-experiencing the trauma, avoidance of negative thoughts, emotions and memories, and hyperarousal, people with Complex PTSD also present with a cluster of signs and symptoms known as Disturbances in Self-Organisation, where the ability to regulate or manage emotions, your sense of identity or self image and the ability to form and maintain social relationships are seriously damaged, all of which can severely affect health, mental health, social connections and the ability for sufferers to work.  The treatment for Complex PTSD is in itself complex and multifaceted: you will require bespoke psychological treatment by a specialist in Complex Trauma on a longer term basis and possibly specialist support for recovery and rehabilitation, which may involve different types of therapy.  Therapy will require regular risk assessments as many people with Complex PTSD will have suicidal thoughts or have attempted suicide or they develop a dependency on alcohol or drugs.  You may also need medication to help you to balance your mood and improve your sleep.  Don’t leave it too late – reach out, asap

Vicarious PTSD affects those who witness horrific situations but are themselves unharmed physically[1]. Although many such situations happen rapidly, such as an automobile accident, others are months or even years in the making.

Sometimes called secondary trauma, vicarious trauma is often found in those who take care of other people. Human services workers, nurses, physicians, counselors, and the list goes on and on. Healthcare and therapists are common victims of vicarious trauma.[2] Police officers and criminal investigators are also prone to secondary and vicarious trauma. Helping people who have been grievously wounded in the bodies, minds or spirits can lead to a kind of secondary wounding. It results from highly empathic people coming into contact with terrible situations. Ironically, people who make their work helping others in the worst of times tend to be above average in empathy, making them prime sufferers of secondary trauma.


  • Re-experiencing

  • Intrusive thoughts

  • Flashbacks

  • Sensory – visual, auditory and olfactory

  • Hyperarousal

  • Increased psychological and physiological tension

  • Hypervigilance

  • Anxiety

  • Heightened startle responses

  • Insomnia

  • Fatigue

  • Irritability

  • Avoidance and emotional numbing

  • Trauma related reminders, thoughts and feelings

  • Negative thoughts


  • Serious road accidents

  • Violent personal assaults, such as sexual assault, mugging or robbery

  • Prolonged sexual abuse, violence or severe neglect

  • Witnessing violent deaths

  • Military combat

  • Being held hostage

  • Terrorist attacks

  • Natural disasters, such as severe floods, earthquakes or tsunamis

  • Personal Injury

  • A near death experience

  • Witnessing a traumatic event such as fire or an assault

* This is not an exhaustive list. PTSD can occur for many different reasons. Everyone has different resilence levels and what may be traumatic to some may not be to others. Often trauma can have a personal connection with those sufferijng with PTSD.

Personal Changes

  • Heightened emotional reactivity

  • Violent outbursts

  • Crying at small triggers

  • Reckless/self-destructive behaviour

  • Dissociation/disconnection/emotional numbing

  • Unable to experience pleasure or positive emotions

  • Feelings of worthlessness

  • Feelings of shame or guilt

  • Difficulties in sustaining relationships

  • Occasional close/intense relationships but no long-term emotional engagement

  • Consistent avoidance, derision or lack of interest in relationships and social engagement

Observational Changes

  • Poor co-worker interactions

  • Emotional outbursts

  • No longer socialising

  • “Sorry, I’m busy tonight”

  • Arguing with partner/children

  • Work interruptions

  • Fear or anxiety

  • Addiction

  • Excessive drinking, eating, gambling, exercise

  • Work tardiness or excessive work hours

  • Absenteeism and physical problems

  • “Sorry, I won’t be in today, I have a cold”

  • Memory and concentration problems

  • Drop in work performance

  • Inappropriate use of internet

  • Tiredness

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