I think I have PTSD – what should I do?
It’s estimated that over 50% of people in the UK will experience trauma at some point in their lives – and it’s quite normal to experience upsetting memories, feel detached, have sleep problems or to feel different after trauma. It therefore might be hard to do your normal daily activities, go to work or even spend time with people you care about and you might experience the following:
- feel emotionally numb
- have vivid memories, flashbacks or nightmares
- start avoiding things that remind you of the event
- feel depressed or exhausted
- eat more than usual, or use more drink or drugs
- feel unable to control your mood
- feel irritable or constantly on edge
- feel the need to keep very busy to cope
Most people will see these symptoms fade over a few weeks, and they will start feeling better. If your symptoms continue, you may have PTSD or C-PTSD and so you should talk to your GP or mental health worker if your symptoms:
- are lasting longer than 6-8 weeks
- are very distressing
- are disrupting your daily life
For some people, their PTSD and C-PTSD symptoms may start months, or even years after the trauma (particularly if it was a repeated or sustained trauma like childhood abuse or domestic abuse), but it’s never too late to get help. If you have PTSD or C-PTSD, you can get treatment – you don’t have to live with your symptoms forever.
How do I know if I have PTSD?
The only way to know for sure, and get a formal diagnosis is to talk to a medical professional.
In the UK, this usually begins with a trip to your GP. They will ask about your symptoms, how you’ve been feeling, and perhaps ask a little about your trauma (if you feel comfortable discussing it).
Your GP will be mindful of PTSD and C-PTSD if you’ve experienced trauma and have:
- re-experiencing symptoms
- avoidance symptoms
- arousal and reactivity symptoms
- cognition and mood symptoms
If they suspect PTSD or C-PTSD, it’s likely they would then refer you to your local community mental health team for an appointment to get a full diagnosis and to discuss treatment options further. There are a number of mental health specialists you may see if you have PTSD or C-PTSD, such as a psychologist, community psychiatric nurse or psychiatrist.
Whilst it can’t give you a diagnosis, you can also answer this self screen questionnaire below, which can indicate if you are experiencing any of the PTSD or C-PTSD symptoms:
In the past month, have you:
- Had nightmares about the trauma or thought about it when you didn’t want to?
- Tried hard not to think about the trauma, or avoided people or places that remind you of the trauma?
- Felt ‘on guard’, been more jumpy, irritable or had difficulty concentrating?
- Felt numb or detached from people, activities, or your surroundings?
- Felt guilty or unable to stop blaming yourself or others for the trauma, or any problems following the trauma?
If you answered “yes” to 3 or more of these questions, it suggests that you are experiencing many of the common symptoms of PTSD and C-PTSD and it is likely they are having a significant impact on your life.
We would suggest seeking help for the symptoms you are experiencing – a diagnosis is the first step to knowing what is going on and finding the most effective treatment for you.
Please note however, that answering “yes” to 3 or more questions does not mean you have PTSD or C-PTSD – only a medical professional can give you a full diagnosis.
And, if you do not answer “yes” to 3 or more questions, you may still want to talk to a medical professional. If you have symptoms following a trauma that are impacting your life, treatment can help – whether or not you have a diagnosis.
Be sure to seek help
Often, people think their symptoms will go away over time – but this is very unlikely, especially if you’ve been having symptoms for over a year. Getting treatment can help stop it from causing problems in your relationships, your career, or your education – and so you can live the way you want to.
Asking for help if the first step to getting control of your PTSD or C-PTSD, and starts you on the path to recovery. Getting treatment can also help other health problems you have that you may not realise are linked (even physical issues).
Waiting for treatment may make your symptoms worse, and then be harder to deal with – so you should see a medical professional as soon as you feel ready.
If you’ve tried treatment before, and you’re still having symptoms, remember that advancements are being made all the time in treatment options for PTSD and C-PTSD – it’s always a good idea to try again if you feel ready.
In the UK today, there are several treatment options for PTSD and C-PTSD – the current NICE guidelines recommend both CBT and EMDR as the main forms of treatment. For most people, these treatments can get rid of symptoms altogether. Others find they have fewer symptoms or feel that their symptoms are less intense.
If you are finding that you’re struggling to look after yourself, you can also have an assessment by social services. Speak to your GP if you might need help with:
- Leaving your house
- Cleaning your house
- Making meals
- Staying safe
- Managing your finances
- Getting a job or being in education
- Keeping in touch with friends and family.
If you don’t feel ready for to ask for help, to get treatment or keep coming up with reasons why ‘now is not the right time’ – it’s normal. But not wanting to think about the trauma, or treatment can actually be a symptom of PTSD and C-PTSD – so you may never fully feel ‘ready’ for treatment, but the sooner you start treatment, the sooner you can start to feel better. Initially, a talking therapy may help to get you into the right ‘space’ to deal with treatment – there are many options.
Taking that first step towards recovery can be the hardest part. The good news is: you have already taken the first step by coming to our website! Try talking to a loved one, and maybe phoning your GP to arrange an appointment next. In the meantime, we’ve lots of resources on our website to help you understand PTSD and C-PTSD more, and help ease your symptoms.
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Treatments for PTSD
It is possible for PTSD to be successfully treated many years after the traumatic event occurred, which means it is never too late to seek help. For some, the first step may be watchful waiting, then exploring therapeutic options such as individual or group therapy – but the main treatment options in the UK are psychological treatments such as Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprogramming (EMDR) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
Traumatic events can be very difficult to come to terms with, but confronting and understanding your feelings and seeking professional help is often the only way of effectively treating PTSD. You can find out more in the links below, or here.