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 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – the organisation that produces guidelines on best practice in health care – currently recommends two types of talking treatment for PTSD:
NICE may recommend other talking treatments in future if they are found to help with PTSD, but more research is needed.
"One of the most disturbing things has been the feelings of aggression and anger towards anyone who looks like the person who attacked me... EMDR therapy has been massively helpful."
If the talking treatment you try doesn't seem to be helping, NICE suggests that you:
Your doctor or therapist should offer you a second course of treatment or a follow-up appointment. You can read the full guidelines for PTSD treatment in English or Welsh on the NICE website.
People experiencing PTSD aren't routinely prescribed medication. However, you might be offered medication if:
If you are offered medication for PTSD, this will usually be an antidepressant. While PTSD is not the same as depression, this type of medication has been found to help. NICE recommends four antidepressants in particular:
NICE recommends venlafaxine or a type of antidepressant called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as sertraline. See our pages on antidepressants for more information about this kind of medication.
If you also experience symptoms of psychosis or severe hyperarousal (constantly feeling on high alert), and other medications have not helped you, you may be offered an antipsychotic to treat these symptoms. Antipsychotic treatment should be reviewed regularly by a specialist such as a psychiatrist. See our pages on antipsychotics for more information about this kind of medication.
Trauma can affect the body physically as well as psychologically and there is growing evidence to show that body-based therapy can help people experiencing PTSD to ground themselves and regulate emotions. You can find out more about body-based therapy and find a therapist via the Body Psychotherapy Network.
However, the NICE guidelines recommend that treatments that have not been designed or properly tested for people who have experienced trauma should not be used on their own.
Here are some ways you could access treatment:
This information was published in January 2020. We will revise it in 2024.
References and bibliography available on request.
If you want to reproduce this content, see our permissions and licensing page.