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Post-traumatic stress disorder

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Last updated:4th Dec 2018

This guideline covers recognising, assessing and treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children, young people and adults. It aims to improve quality of life by reducing symptoms of PTSD such as anxiety, sleep problems and difficulties with concentration. Recommendations also aim to raise awareness of the condition and improve coordination of care.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops after a stressful event or situation of an exceptionally threatening or catastrophic nature. It is a disorder that can affect people of any age. Around 25–30% of people experiencing a traumatic event go on to develop PTSD.

PTSD can present with a range of symptoms. In adults the most common of these are vivid, distressing memories of the event or flashbacks, known as intrusive symptoms. Another prominent symptom is avoidance of trauma-related reminders or general social contact. People with PTSD often try to push memories of the event out of their mind and avoid thinking or talking about it in detail. On the other hand, people may also reflect excessively on questions that prevent them from coming to terms with the event – for example, why it happened to them, how it could have been prevented, or how they could take revenge. People with PTSD often have nightmares related to the trauma that affect their sleep.

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