Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Explains what post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex PTSD are, and provides information on how you can access treatment and support. Includes self-care tips and guidance for friends and family.

Your stories

Understanding PTSD

Annabelle blogs about how Mind's information helped her see past her trauma.

Annabelle
Posted on 30/07/2015

My cPTSD diagnosis

Mick tells us about his difficult path to a cPTSD diagnosis (complex post-tramatic stress disorder).

Posted on 25/09/2017

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder which you may develop after being involved in, or witnessing, traumatic events. The condition was first recognised in war veterans and has been known by a variety of names, such as 'shell shock'. But it's not only diagnosed in soldiers – a wide range of traumatic experiences can cause PTSD.

When something traumatic happens in your life it rocks you to the core. The world is no longer a safe place. It becomes somewhere that bad things can and do happen.

What's it like to have PTSD?

Watch Larry, Anamoli, Paul and Maisie share their experiences of PTSD – what it's like to live with it, what has helped them and how they see their future.

When is it diagnosed?

When you go through something you find traumatic it's understandable to experience some symptoms associated with PTSD afterwards, such as feeling numb or having trouble sleeping. This is sometimes described as an 'acute stress reaction'.

Many people find that these symptoms disappear within a few weeks, but if your symptoms last for longer than a month, you might be given a diagnosis of PTSD. Your GP might refer you to a specialist before this if your symptoms are particularly severe.

I started experiencing symptoms of PTSD after my boyfriend died. I suffered extremely vivid flashbacks that could happen at any time, anywhere, and were deeply distressing… I threw myself into another relationship very quickly to try and avoid how I was feeling, but then also would not express much affection to my new partner.

Are there different types of PTSD?

If you are given a diagnosis of PTSD, you might be told that you have mild, moderate or severe PTSD. This explains what sort of impact your symptoms are having on you currently – it's not a description of how frightening or upsetting your experiences might have been.

PTSD may be described differently in some situations:

  • Delayed-onset PTSD – if your symptoms emerge more than six months after experiencing trauma, this might be described as 'delayed PTSD' or 'delayed-onset PTSD'.
  • Complex PTSD – if you experienced trauma at an early age or it lasted for a long time, you might be given a diagnosis of 'complex PTSD'. (See our page on complex PTSD for more information.)
  • Birth trauma – PTSD that develops after a traumatic experience of childbirth is also known as 'birth trauma'. (See our page on PTSD and birth trauma for more information.)

I couldn’t understand why I felt like my brain wasn’t functioning – I couldn't remember things, I couldn’t process things. It was like my brain had just slowed down and ground to a halt.

Experiences of facing stigma

There are lots of misconceptions about PTSD. For example, people may wrongly assume it means you are 'dwelling' on past events. They might even suggest that you should 'get over it' or 'move on'. But having PTSD isn't a choice or a sign of weakness, and it's important to remember that you are not alone.

Here are some options you could consider:

  • Show people this information to help them understand more about what your diagnosis really means.
  • Get more involved in your treatment. Our pages on seeking help for a mental health problem provide guidance on having your say in your treatment, making your voice heard, and steps you can take if you're not happy with your care.
  • Talk about your experienceSharing your story can help improve people's understanding and change their attitudes.
  • Know your rights. Our pages on legal rights provide more information.
  • Take action with Mind. See our Get Involved page for details of the different ways you can support us to challenge stigma.

This information was published in May 2017. We will revise it in 2020.


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