Explains what post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.
The situations we find traumatic can vary from person to person. There are many different harmful or life-threatening events that might cause someone to develop PTSD. For example:
Some people also find their experience of being sectioned or of getting treatment in a mental health ward traumatising.
"I was mugged then about a year later I was on the Tube when the police were trying to arrest someone who had a gun. In neither experience was I physically injured – although in the second one I thought I was going to die and that I was going to see lots of other people die."
Some factors may make you more vulnerable to developing PTSD, or may make the problems you experience more severe, including:
If you experienced trauma at an early age or you have experienced long-lasting or multiple traumas, you might be given a diagnosis of complex PTSD. See our page on complex PTSD for more information.
"I was diagnosed by my GP with PTSD a few weeks after the death of my father who died very suddenly, following a family outing to the local pub for lunch. He collapsed in front of us and we had to administer CPR at the scene while waiting for the ambulance. He died later on the way to hospital."
Anyone can experience traumatic events, but you may be particularly likely to have experienced trauma if you:
This information was published in January 2021. We will revise it in 2024.
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