Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder. It’s caused by frightening or distressing events. It's normal to experience upsetting thoughts after a traumatic event. Visit your GP if you or your child are still having problems about four weeks after the event, particularly if you have symptoms of PTSD.

Symptoms of PTSD 

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

The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can have a significant impact on your day-to-day life.

The signs and symptoms can include:

• re-experiencing/reliving traumatic events - which may occur in the daytime when you are awake (flashbacks, or intrusive images or thoughts) or as nightmares when asleep. These can cause distress and anxiety (these are the most characteristic symptoms). You may also have problems sleeping

• avoidance of people or places that remind you of the traumatic event

• emotional numbing/negative thoughts - where you have problems experiencing feelings or feel detached from other people, or have negative thoughts about yourself. You may experience feelings of isolation, irritability or guilt. You may have difficulty concentrating

• hyperarousal/hyper reactivity - where you may feel on guard all the time, looking for danger (hypervigilance), or you may become irritable with angry outbursts (with little or no provocation). You may experience other symptoms such as pain, sweating, nausea or trembling

Other problems 

Many people with PTSD also have a number of other problems, including:

PTSD sometimes leads to work-related problems and the breakdown of relationships.

PTSD in children 

PTSD can affect children as well as adults. Children with PTSD can have similar symptoms to adults, such as having trouble sleeping and upsetting nightmares.

Like adults, children with PTSD may also lose interest in activities they used to enjoy. They may have physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach aches.

There are some symptoms that are more specific to children with PTSD, such as:

  • bedwetting
  • being unusually anxious about being separated from a parent or other adult
  • re-enacting the traumatic event(s) through their play

When to seek medical advice 

It's normal to experience upsetting and confusing thoughts after a traumatic event. Most people improve naturally over a few weeks.

You should visit your GP if you or your child are still having problems about four weeks after the traumatic experience.

If necessary, your GP can refer you to mental health specialists for further assessment and treatment.

Causes of PTSD 

The type of events that can cause PTSD include:

  • serious road accidents
  • violent personal assaults, such as sexual assault, mugging or robbery
  • long periods of sexual abuse, violence or severe neglect
  • witnessing violent deaths
  • military combat
  • being held hostage
  • terrorist attacks
  • natural disasters, such as severe floods, earthquakes or tsunamis

PTSD is estimated to affect about one in every three people who have a traumatic experience. It’s not clear exactly why some people develop the condition and others don't.

How PTSD is treated 

PTSD can be successfully treated, even when it develops many years after a traumatic event.

Any treatment depends on the severity of symptoms and how soon they occur after the traumatic event. 

Your GP will discuss the best course of treatment for you. This could include psychotherapy such as such as trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or medication.

PTSD and driving 

Having PTSD could affect your ability to drive.

If you've had or currently suffer from a medical condition or disability that may affect your driving you must tell the Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA).

 

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

For further information see terms and conditions.

This page was reviewed December 2018

This page is due for review June 2022

Health conditions A to Z

Search by health condition or symptoms

Or find conditions beginning with …

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email LPSCustomerTeam@lpsni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.