'Something terrible happened'

Traumatic events and PTSD

Dr Tony Roberts

Traumatic events

These notes are designed to help
young people who have experienced what we
call a `Traumatic event'.

If you are reading this
you may have experienced such an event
in your life, and would like some help.

Traumatic events can be of various kinds....

Single event

Sometimes it is just one single event.....
A person may have been assaulted, attacked, raped.
Or perhaps involved in a road traffic accident.

Many events

Sometimes a person experiences many events
in their life,
many events that are traumatic for them
such as being subject to the various forms
of child abuse,
over a period of time.

They may have been physically abused, hit.
Or they may have been sexually abused.
or they may have been subject to repeated
emotional abuse or other humiliation.

They may have been teased or bullied at school
Either by other pupils
or humiliated by teachers.

Watching or hearing about it

We do not have to be directly involved
in order to be traumatised.

Watching someone else in trouble,
or even hearing about it
can be traumatising.

It can be traumatising to see someone else
being assaulted, beaten up, or having an accident.
Or being involved in any kind of tragedy.

Sometimes it can be traumatising
to learn about
the sudden unexpected death or serious illness
of someone we are close to.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

when we have experienced a traumatic event
we can suffer certain troubling symptoms...
Emotions, thoughts, feelings

Taken together
this group of symptoms
is named `Post-traumatic stress disorder'
'PTSD' for short.

You may suffer only one of the symptoms.
On the other hand,
You may suffer from all of them.

It doesn't really matter
There's no right or wrong.

What are the symptoms of PTSD ?

These are some of the symptoms that you might experience
and can be, in a sense, normal
if you have had a traumatic experience......

(1) Reexperiencing

You may experience
recurrent memories of the event,
thinking about it when you don't want to.

There may be pictures of what happened
or thoughts about it.
Or you may have recurrent distressing dreams or nightmares.

When these pictures are particularly vivid
and unwanted, they are called `flashbacks'.
things, places, people, can remind you
of the event
and this can cause you distress.
and even give rise to bodily symptoms of anxiety.

(2) Avoiding things

You may find yourself
making great efforts to avoid
about what happened.

You may want to avoid
that remind you.

You may be unable to remember
certain important parts of what happened.

You may lose interest in your former
social activities;
you may stop going out with friends.

You may feel detached, alone,
cut off from other people at school.
You may feel different from those around you
and feel that you can't love people any more.

You may feel that the future is hopeless
or that you have no future
and that you do not expect to grow up
and have a career, marriage, or children.

(3) Increased arousal

You may have difficulty
falling asleep
or staying asleep.

You may have become very irritable.
Easily angered,
with a very short fuse.

Wanting to shout at
other members of the family
friends at school,
or teachers
with very little provocation from them.

You may have such a temper that you
are liable to be violent
smashing things
or hitting people.

All this may have led to trouble
with parents or teachers.

You may have difficulty concentrating
leading to your falling behind with your school work.

You may find yourself very jumpy, easily startled.

Can I get help ?

Yes !

There are a number of different ways of helping
people with PTSD.

These are best discussed with your therapist
who will suggest to you the best way to proceed
taking account the kind of person you are
and the trauma which you have suffered.

Take heart

Many, many people have suffered from PTSD
and there is help.

You are not alone.


Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Fourth Edition
American Psychiatric Association,1994


Click on these buttons to visit our journals
Return to Psychiatry On-Line Return to Dentistry On-Line Return to Vet On-Line Return to GP On-Line Link to Pharmacy on-Line Return to Anaesthesia On-Line Return to Medicine On-Line Return to Family Medical Practice On-Line

All pages copyright ©Priory Lodge Education Ltd 1994-1999.

Last amended: 11/02/00.