PTSD can feel like you are constantly reliving the traumatic experience even though it has ended, or you might feel numb and unable to think about it at all. Other people with PTSD might feel on edge, have mood swings, eat or drink more than usual or feel exhausted constantly.
Fortunately, PTSD is treatable, which is why it’s so important to get the right help if you are experiencing any symptoms of PTSD.
Our approach to treating trauma and PTSD
We are aware that getting PTSD therapy can be daunting, particularly if you are worried about your symptoms becoming worse when you talk about or ‘relive’ the traumatic experience. However, the sooner you start receiving treatment, the sooner you can expect your symptoms to improve. Many of our patients find that after treatment, their emotions start to stabilise, leaving them feeling in control again and able to develop healthy coping mechanisms and work through their traumatic experience.
When you speak with us, we will always make sure you feel safe and at ease. We won’t push you to discuss anything involuntarily and your personal preferences will inform the personalised treatment that we develop with you.
What is the difference between experiencing trauma and PTSD?
Many people experience traumatic events, and everyone has different ways of coping with trauma. Some people may have involuntary flashbacks or feel constantly reminded of the trauma, while others may feel empty and numb. Some people may only have physical symptoms, such as being unable to sleep or feeling on edge or irritable. These are all different coping mechanisms for dealing with trauma and is part of an evolutionary response that humans have developed for coping with traumatic events.
For a lot of people, these symptoms will start to improve within 6 weeks after the traumatic event, but unfortunately, about 1 in 3 who experience trauma will get ‘stuck in a loop’, where they struggle to recover from the effects of the trauma, either physically or mentally. Although untreated PTSD may reduce in intensity over time, it could be re-activated when a new traumatic event (or sometimes just a difficult situation) comes along.
Do I need to see a psychiatrist after a traumatic experience?
You don’t need to undergo treatment for the trauma unless the symptoms associated with the trauma are causing distress or interfering with your life.
Seeing a psychiatrist will be particularly helpful for finding out if you have PTSD or if your symptoms are due to another problem. It will also be helpful for you to discuss the available PTSD treatment in the UK, including therapy and medication.
Seeing a psychiatrist or an experienced therapist after a traumatic experience can help you to process the trauma. At LPC, we are highly experienced in diagnosing and helping people with PTSD, and we understand that being highly empathetic to the symptoms you’re experiencing is essential for you to feel comfortable and discuss the available treatment options.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
PTSD symptoms can vary between people because everyone has different ways of coping with trauma. Although nightmares and flashbacks are the most stereotypical symptoms people associate with PTSD, many people don’t experience them. Instead, some people with PTSD will feel like they are ‘zoning out’, struggle to concentrate, feel numb, or feel jumpy and on edge most of the time.
The symptoms could be triggered by anything that reminds you of the traumatic event consciously or subconsciously. If you start avoiding things that remind you of the trauma then gradually a pattern of avoidance may occur. This might look like not visiting the place where the trauma occurred, avoiding anything that reminds you of the trauma or refusing to talk about anything related to the trauma. Over time, this could lead to severe restrictions in your hobbies, interests and activities. It might also lead to lower self-esteem or difficulty controlling your emotions, such as overwhelming fear or anxiety.
Unfortunately, many people don’t realise that some of the changes they are experiencing are related to their PTSD so they start to feel embarrassed, guilty or uncomfortable around others. For those who have experienced violence or sexual trauma, they may find it extremely difficult to form close relationships due to these feelings.
We’ve grouped some of the symptoms of PTSD below to make them easier to understand:
Being out of touch with your normal sense of self. This can range from ‘zoning out’ to full-blown experiences of feeling as if you are somewhere else or someone else (including being back in the traumatic event or being a younger version of yourself experiencing the trauma).
The tricky thing about dissociation is that people find it difficult to describe as they aren’t altogether aware when it is happening. In some cases, it may be helpful for your psychiatrist or therapist to speak to any of your friends, family or others (with your consent) that might have witnessed these experiences of dissociation (some people use the word ‘disassociation’).
Flashbacks and nightmares are some ways of reliving the traumatic experience. They occur because your mind is re-activating emotionally intense trauma-related memories as a way of trying to process or cope with the trauma.
Your body may act as if you are back in the trauma or as if it is about to happen again. You might be jumpy or startle easily because your body’s fight-flight system is on ‘high alert’. This can lead to a whole range of physical symptoms including heart palpitations, sweating, hyperventilating or even an upset stomach. Sometimes this can lead to panic attacks or even feeling like you are about to die.
Hallucinations or paranoia
In a small number of cases, the trauma can lead to psychotic experiences or delusions. Although antipsychotic medication could be helpful, many people start to feel better when they understand that these symptoms are related to their PTSD and they haven’t developed a psychotic illness (like schizophrenia).
What is the best treatment of PTSD?
Every person will have different PTSD symptoms that tend to be specifically related to the trauma they have experienced. Our PTSD treatment in the UK takes a personalised approach, taking into account both the physical and the psychological or emotional consequences of the trauma.
The most successful treatment for PTSD is usually psychotherapy (psychological or talking therapy) that is specifically focused on identifying and treating the symptoms of the trauma. This might include:
- Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
- Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)
- Narrative exposure therapy
- Other therapies may also be helpful, such as Emotional Freedom Techniques or Sensorimotor Trauma Therapy
As the symptoms of PTSD are related to a heightened stress response we find that adding stress reduction or relaxation techniques can be helpful, alongside therapy or medication. Some of these techniques could include meditation, mind-body exercises, or lifestyle interventions designed to reduce stress (such as sleep, nutrition and exercise).
In many people, medication can be helpful in treating PTSD, particularly if you are experiencing highly distressing symptoms. The most commonly used medications for trauma are medications that help with anxiety and depression, but the pharmacological treatment of PTSD and trauma can be complex and there is a large number of medications that can be potentially useful, including medications that are commonly prescribed to treat other psychiatric problems.
Does PTSD go away?
The research into PTSD provides a mixed array of suggestions. According to a recent review, PTSD will naturally go into remission after a few years in about half of cases. The nature of the trauma is also highly relevant; natural disasters, for example, tend to be less traumatic to the individual in the longer term, compared to trauma resulting from physical illness. Studies show considerable heterogeneity across the condition, which ultimately means that remission rates of PTSD are highly individual, specific to you and your trauma.
We have helped many people with PTSD to successfully overcome their symptoms and in doing so they have developed the confidence and resilience to overcome future problems. We will always provide a safe, supportive and caring environment for you to talk about any of your problems or experiences.
Our ultimate goal is to help you find your inner strength and support you in developing healthy ways to cope with the trauma, in a way that suits your unique symptoms and circumstances. We will work together with you to develop a personalised PTSD therapy treatment plan suited to your needs.
What is Complex PTSD?
Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (Complex PTSD) has been recently added as a separate diagnosis in the WHO International Classification of Diseases. Complex PTSD is simply a type of PTSD. It is generally used to describe instances where individuals have suffered repeated trauma, where their safety has felt threatened. Complex PTSD often occurs in the context of other people inflicting it, for example in an abusive relationship.
People with Complex PTSD can have the same symptoms as those with PTSD along with other symptoms, such as difficulty controlling their emotions, finding it difficult to trust people or feeling as if they are permanently damaged or worthless. Sometimes these symptoms can be confused with borderline personality disorder (BPD), so it is important to carry out a careful and thorough assessment in order to receive the right treatment. Our psychiatrists at LPC are experienced with this clinical condition and will be able to guide you through the complexities of symptoms and appropriate treatments.