Post traumatic stress disorder services

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events.

The symptoms of PTSD can start immediately or after a delay of weeks or months. They usually appear within six months of the traumatic event. Many people feel grief-stricken, depressed, anxious, guilty and angry after a traumatic experience. As well as these understandable emotional reactions, there are three main types of symptoms:

  • Flashbacks and nightmares: People may re-live an event again and again. This can happen both as a ‘flashback’ in the day and as nightmares when asleep. These can be so realistic that it feels as though the experience was being lived all over again. People may see images but also feel the emotions and physical sensations of what happened – fear, sweating, smells, sounds, pain. Ordinary and everyday things can trigger off flashbacks.
  • Avoidance and numbing: It can be very upsetting for people to re-live their experience over and over again. So people tend to distract themselves. They often avoid places and people that remind them of the trauma, and try not to talk about it. Sometimes, people deal with the pain of their feelings by trying to feel nothing at all – by becoming emotionally numb. They communicate less with other people and withdraw.
  • Being ‘on guard’: Some people stay alert all the time, as if they were looking out for danger. They can’t relax. This is called ‘hypervigillance’. They feel anxious and find it hard to sleep and feel jumpy and irritable.

Treatment

Trauma-focused Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) approved treatment for PTSD. It is evidence-based and effective in helping people who have experienced trauma to ‘reprocess’ memories, allowing them to function once more at an optimum level.

NICE states that all PTSD sufferers should be offered a course of trauma-focused CBT regardless of the time since the trauma. They also state that differences in culture or language should not be an obstacle to the provision of effective trauma-focused psychological interventions.

Eligibility criteria and referrals

For eligibility criteria and referrals information please view the Forced Migration Trauma Service

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