What is trauma?

Everyone has been through a stressful event in their lives. When an event causes a lot of distress, or makes us feel fearful for our or someone else’s safety, it is described as traumatic. Any situation that a person finds traumatic can cause PTSD. These can include serious road accidents, violent personal assaults, serious health problems or difficult childbirth experiences.

It's very normal to feel distressed after such experiences. That distress can affects us all in different ways. People can initially feel shock, numbness, or confused but also fear and agitation.

Do

  • keep life as normal as possible
  • get back to your usual routine
  • talk about what happened to someone you trust
  • try relaxation exercises
  • eat and exercise regularly
  • try to go back to where the traumatic event happened
  • take time to be with family and friends
  • drive with care - your concentration may be poor
  • speak to a doctor or other healthcare professional
  • expect to get better

Don't

  • beat yourself up about it - trauma symptoms are not a sign of weakness. They are a normal reaction, of normal people, to terrifying experiences
  • bottle up your feelings. If you have developed trauma symptoms, don't keep it to yourself because treatment is usually very successful.
  • avoid talking about it.
  • expect the memories to go away immediately, they may be with you for quite some time.
  • expect too much of yourself. Cut yourself a bit of slack while you adjust to what has happened.
  • stay away from other people.
  • drink lots of alcohol or coffee or smoke more.
  • get overtired.
  • miss meals.

 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events. 

PTSD is characterised by the feeling that the person is back in the traumatic incident. This can be in:

  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Body sensations

It can develop immediately after someone experiences a disturbing event, or it can occur weeks, months or even years later.

PTSD is estimated to affect about 1 in every 3 people who have a traumatic experience, but it's not clear exactly why some people develop the condition and others do not.

It is common for people to try and avoid reminders of the trauma, including, talking about it, people, places and things that bring back the memories of their trauma. People suffering from PTSD can often feel more negative about themselves and the world in which they live. It is also common to be more vigilant to danger and this tend to lead to increase startle reactions and irritability and reduced concentration. 

How can I tell if I have PTSD?

If you have experienced a traumatic event and are experiencing some of the below symptoms, you may have PTSD:

  • have vivid memories, flashbacks or nightmares
  • avoid things that remind you of the event
  • feel emotionally numb at times
  • feel irritable and constantly on edge but can't see why
  • eat more than usual, or use more drink or drugs than usual
  • feel out of control of your mood
  • find it more difficult to get on with other people
  • have to keep very busy to cope
  • feel depressed or exhausted

Whilst PTSD is very distressing it can be treated effectively with evidence based psychological (talking) therapies that are available in the NHS. You can also chat to us if you have any questions.

Video: Take a look at the video explaining some of the causes, symptoms and treatments associated with PTSD.

In anticipation of the fallout from the war in Ukraine, Psychological Tools have translated a selection of trauma psychoeducation resources into Ukrainian and are making them available for free to everyone to download and use.

Free Ukrainian Translations of Trauma And PTSD 

Psychological Tools have translated a selection of trauma psychoeducation resources into Ukrainian and are making them available for free to everyone to download and use.

How Trauma Can Affect You

Download now: How Trauma Can Affect You [Ukrainian]
This is an illustrated information handout designed for children and young people. It describes and normalizes common reactions to traumatic events, including feeling scared, having unwanted memories, or having nightmares and sleeping badly.

Symptoms experienced post-trauma can be physically and emotionally powerful, and can feel especially disturbing if the person doesn’t know why they are occurring. This resource can help children and adolescents to understand that they are experiencing normal reactions to powerful events. It can also be used to help wider family and other people to understand how young people might be feeling.

Reactions To Trauma

Download now: Reactions To Trauma [Ukrainian]
This is an information handout designed for adults. It describes symptoms which commonly follow trauma – including re-experiencing symptoms, hyperarousal, and avoidance. It also gives helpful pointers about what to do to help someone who has experienced trauma.

Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Download now: Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder [Ukrainian]
This is a guide designed to help people with PTSD to understand more about their condition. As well as a description of trauma, symptoms of PTSD, and effective treatments, this guide explores key maintenance factors for PTSD including: unprocessed memories, beliefs about trauma and its consequences, and coping strategies including avoidance.

Written in a friendly and explanatory way, this guide is a comprehensive source of information for those with PTSD. The concepts are explained in an easily digestible way, with case examples and accessible diagrams.

Good Thinking workbook

Provides psychoeducation and techniques to help you cope with your trauma, including what to do when flashbacks and nightmares arise. Read and download here.

NHS: coping after a major incident

The NHS have created a helpful leaflet on coping with stress after a major incident.

Post Traumatic Stress: an NHS self help guide

In this self-help guidebook from the Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, they provide information on: what a traumatic incident is, how people react afterwards, why we react so strongly to trauma, what we can do to help overcome symptoms of trauma, advice on taking prescribed medication, and further help and resources. 

An easy read version is also available to download here.

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