Most people are likely to experience a potentially traumatic event in their lifetime, and most individuals recover well, given time and adequate social support.1 For some individuals however, the experience of a traumatic event or chronic exposure to trauma can trigger symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) refers to a set of symptoms that can emerge following the experience of a traumatic event that involves exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence. Exposure to such events can be through:
- directly experiencing the traumatic event
- witnessing, in person, the event happening to someone else
- learning that the event has happened to a close family member or close friend
- repeated or extreme exposure to the aftermath of trauma (e.g. first responders to emergency situations).
Symptoms are characterised by a sense of reliving of the traumatic event, avoidance of reminders of the traumatic event, feeling numb, having negative thoughts and mood, and feeling agitated or wound up.2
Without treatment, PTSD can become a chronic condition, and places the individual at greater risk of developing other mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety, or problems with alcohol or drug use.3 With sound psychological intervention however, the chances of recovery are good.4