Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) refers to a group of stress responses that may develop after being involved or witnessing traumatic events. This could be a serious accident, physical or sexual assault, war, or disasters such as bushfires or floods. PTSD can happen after we’ve been through one traumatic event, or following repeated exposure to trauma.

We are all unique in the way we respond to and recover from traumatic or stressful events. We might become irritable or angry; we might feel despair, emotional numbing, or a sense of isolation and loneliness.

Several other symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Re-experiencing the trauma in the form of distressing intrusive thoughts, memories, nightmares, or flashbacks.
  • Reliving the event leads to a racing heartbeat and difficulties in breathing.
  • Avoiding reminders of the event, including people, places, objects, conversations, and activities.
  • Negative changes in thoughts and mood following the traumatic event. For example:
    • Not being able to remember part of the traumatic event
    • Heightened sense of danger
    • Feeling a sense of guilt, numbness, horror, irritability, or anger
    • Attaching blame to yourself or others for the event or its aftermath.
    • Feeling detached from others.
    • Feeling ‘on edge’ and overly aroused, which can appear as angry outbursts, reckless behaviour, getting startled easily, and difficulties with sleeping and concentrating.

Most of us will feel symptoms of trauma in the days or weeks immediately following a traumatic event. However, if you’ve experienced a traumatic event and you’re finding it hard to cope, it’s important to ask for help.