I'm a young adult with PTSD
If you have PTSD, you are not alone. It can be really scary, but help is available.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is actually a very common condition which is caused by people experiencing something very frightening, dangerous or something that makes you scared for someone else’s safety.
How you might be feeling
If you’ve been through something really scary, you may feel sad, anxious or worried for a few weeks afterwards, but these feelings usually fade. If you have PTSD, your body and mind were so scared, they are now struggling to process the event, and so your brain thinks the danger is still all around you. This can make you feel scared, nervous and make you jump at loud noises, or have lots of nightmares. It might also make you have other symptoms or feel these things:
- Constantly thinking about the event.
- Images of the events keep coming into your mind
- Bad memories, called flashbacks, that make it seem like the trauma is still happening
- Difficulty sleeping and/or nightmares
- Changes in how you feel emotionally, i.e. frightened, sad, anxious, angry
- Avoiding certain situations that remind you of the event
- Feeling numb, stunned, shocked or dazed and have difficulties connecting with life around you
- Denial that the event actually happened
You might also feel a wide range of emotions, that you’re not used to feeling (or that you can normally ‘shake off’ such as
- Anger – that something terrible has happened to you. You may be angry towards the people involved or angry at yourself if you feel you should have done something differently.
- Guilt – that you believe you should have done something to prevent the event from happening or you may feel you were responsible or to blame. You may feel guilty that you survived when others didn’t.
- Frightened – that the same event could happen again or that you are not safe anywhere or with anyone. You may feel too scared to tell anyone about what happened.
- Sad – that it happened or if someone died or was injured.
- Ashamed or embarrassed – by what happened and you might feel worried about telling anyone in case you get told off.
Why do I feel like this?
If you have PTSD, your brain is having difficulty in processing what has happened to you. Normally, when you sleep at night, your brain takes all the memories of your day, and puts them into the right places in your mind – so when you get up the next day, you’ll remember where you put your school books, you’ll remember you promised to meet your best friend at the bus stop and remember all the fun things you did that day.
The problem is, when you experience something very frightening, your brain ‘forgets’ to process the memory – it’s too busy trying to deal with whats happened. This is a normal reaction that humans have evolved to have over thousands of years – it’s what keeps us safe – and is called ‘fight, flight or freeze’. If you were a caveman, there’s no need to think about where you promised to meet your best friend if a sabre-tooth tiger is infront of you, you need to just RUN!
So, if your brain hasn’t been able to process the traumatic thing you went through – it doesn’t put it in your memory bank, and so thinks that almost all day, every day, that you’re still in danger. This means your body stays in the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response, and so you might feel nervous, scared, overwhelmed or sad, and don’t know why. Check out the video below which explains more about Fight, Flight or Freeze.
This long term reaction to the trauma is sometimes classified as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, (PTSD) and can cause lots of other symptoms too.
I think I might have PTSD
If you think you might have PTSD talking through what happened with a family member, friend, or teacher can be helpful. They will be able to chat things over at a pace that is right for you – and it’s ok if you get upset when you’re telling them – just take a deep breath and start again when you’re ready.
The next step will be to speak to your doctor, who will be able to talk to you about what you’re experiencing, and then decide what treatment option will be best for you. Perhaps ask your parents, another member of your family or a friend to go with you. You can find out more about treatment for PTSD in people under 18 here.
If you just need to talk, any time of day or night
It’s important to talk to someone about how you are feeling. This could be a family member or friend, your GP or by calling a helpline. These services offer confidential support from trained volunteers. You can talk about anything that’s troubling you, no matter how difficult:
- Call 116 123 to talk to Samaritans, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org for a reply within 24 hours
- Text “SHOUT” to 85258 to contact the Shout Crisis Text Line, or text “YM” if you’re under 19
- NHS 24: 111 (open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day)
- Childline: 0800 1111 (open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day)
Remember if you or someone else is in immediate danger call 999.
You may also find this booklet useful: What is Complex Trauma? A Resource Guide for Youth and Those Who Care About Them
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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.