Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that you might develop after being involved in or witnessing a traumatic event. In most cases, the symptoms develop straight away but sometimes they may start to appear months or even years after the event. There are different types of PTSD:

  • Delayed-onset PTSD – if your symptoms begin to surface more than six months after experiencing a traumatic event 
  • Complex PTSD – if you experienced trauma in your childhood years or it lasted a long time
  • Postpartum PTSD – PTSD that develops after a traumatic birth experience (this is also known as birth trauma)


Symptoms of PTSD can vary from person to person. The most common ones are:

  • Re-living the trauma – having vivid flashbacks, nightmares, intense distress at real or symbolic reminders of the truma, intrusive thoughts or images, feeling pain, sweating, nausea or shaking
  • Difficult beliefs or feelings – feeling like you can’t trust anyone and that no one understands, feeling that nowhere is safe, blaming yourself, having overwhelming feelings of guilt, shame, anger or sadness
  • Feeling on edge – being easily upset or angry, feeling extreme alertness, irritability and aggressive behaviour, being unable to sleep, being easily startled, panicking when reminded of the trauma, feeling unable to concentrate
  • Avoiding memories – keeping busy, avoiding anything that will remind you of the trauma, repressing memories (being unable to remember aspects of the event), feeling emotionally numb, being unable to show affection


There are many events that someone can experience and develop PTSD as a result. These will vary from person to person and can include: 

  • Being involved in a car accident
  • Being violently attacked
  • Being physically, sexually or emotionally abused
  • Doing a job where you see people hurt 
  • Having a traumatic childbirth
  • Being in a place where there is a war
  • Surviving a terrorist attack or a natural disaster 
  • An unexpected injury or death to a close family member or friend

But why does it develop?

  • One suggestion is that the symptoms of PTSD act as a survival mechanism, to help you deal with it better if you are ever in that situation again. Being on edge is thought to help you quickly react in another stressful situation. However, these symptoms may be there to help you survive but they’re actually counterproductive in reality because they don’t allow you to move on from the traumatic experience. Studies have also shown that people with PTSD have high levels of stress hormones. When you’re in danger, normally the body goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode and produces hormones like adrenaline to get you out of the situation. But people with PTSD have been found to continue producing high amounts of these hormones even when there aren’t any threats. There have been found to also be some biological changes in the brains of those with PTSD. One area of the brain responsible for memory and emotions appears smaller in size in those with PTSD. As a result, flashbacks and nightmares do not get processed properly meaning that they continue to produce the same amount of anxiety as they first did.

Complex PTSD

Complex PTSD 

  • Having difficulties controlling your emotions
  • Feeling as if you are permanently damaged or are worthless 
  • Experiencing dissociative symptoms (such as depersonalisation or derealisation) 
  • Feelings of shame or guilt
  • Cutting yourself off from friendships and relationships 
  • Engaging in destructive or risky behaviours (such as self-harming, alcohol or drug misuse)
  • Having feelings of suicide


Complex PTSD a type of PTSD. You are more likely to develop it if you experienced trauma at an early age or have experienced multiple traumas. It is characterised by the experience of the symptoms of PTSD but with additional ones, such as:

Causes of Complex PTSD include:

  • Childhood abuse or neglect
  • Exposure to ongoing domestic violence or witnessing abuse
  • Being tortured, kidnapped or experiencing slavery

How can I help myself?

  • Talk to someone – talking to someone you trust can help in itself, you might find that it may help to talk the event out to help you process it 
  • Look after your physical health – get some more sleep, choose a healthier diet and do some exercise!
  • Keep a mood diary – it might also help if you keep a diary of your experiences so you can look back at it, identify triggers and then be able to anticipate stressful situations and deal with them better
  • Give yourself time – as frustrating as you may find struggling with PTSD symptoms, remember that your recovery is a process. It will take time and it’s very important that you give yourself the space to do so.
  • Focus on your breathing – try to slow it down, breathing in through your nose for three seconds and then out through your mouth for five. Breathing is so simple but is often overlooked and can help you relax
  • Try grounding techniques – these can help you regain control of the situation. Examples of grounding techniques are focusing on the sounds you can hear around you, reminding yourself of who you are, splashing water on your face and noticing how it feels, focusing on someone’s voice, or wiggling your fingers and toes to remind yourself that you are in control


There are talking therapies available to help you recover from PTSD. These are:


  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) focuses on your thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Trauma-Focused CBT (TF-CBT) uses psychological techniques to help you come to terms with the traumatic event
  • Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) – this is a new treatment that involves making eye movements while recalling the traumatic event. The eye movements create a similar effect to the way our brains process information, helping you to process the event and begin to think about it differently

You might be prescribed some antidepressant medication but this would only be if you are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety. It is important to speak to your doctor about your symptoms. 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *