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Post-traumatic stress disorder

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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that affects around five per cent of men and around 10 per cent of women at some point in their lives. It starts after a particularly traumatic event such as a natural disaster, violence, war or abuse. It often starts within a few weeks of the traumatic event but sometimes the symptoms don't show for months or even years after the triggering event.

If you have PTSD you may relive the traumatic event through flashbacks or nightmares. These images and feelings can be very intense and can feel just as scary as when the event actually happened. Because of the flashbacks and nightmares, you may feel more anxious and 'on edge' throughout the day. You may not be able to sleep well, and you may become irritable, depressed or angry. Sometimes the fear caused by PTSD can cause physical symptoms like stomach pain or headaches. Some people with PTSD may try to drink or use drugs to make themselves feel better, but this can often make matters worse.

If you think you or someone you know might be suffering with PTSD you should make an appointment with your GP to discuss what your treatment options are.

There are a number of different things that can help PTSD. In some cases, where the symptoms haven't been happening for a long time, a doctor may advise that you wait and carefully monitor your symptoms to see if they improve in time. You will need a follow-up appointment in a month to speak to your doctor about how your symptoms are.

If your symptoms aren't resolving on their own with time, you might need talking therapy (such as counselling) or cognitive-behavioural therapy

There are also a number of medications which may help with your symptoms. 

Other information and advice

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South West London and St Georges NHS have produced an easy-to-read leaflet about post-traumatic stress disorder which may particularly useful for people with learning disabilities.

Please see the Other information and Advice page for organisations and services that support people with experience of mental health issues.