Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is classified as an anxiety disorder characterised by feelings of anxiety or panic that result from a major emotional shock following a stressful event i.e. a trauma.  PTSD can be brought on by being involved in or witnessing distressing situations such as:

  • war
  • a major accident
  • a natural disaster (bush fire, flood or cyclone)
  • violence and sexual, physical, emotional or verbal abuse 
  • being neglected or abandoned
  • trauma associated with having a chronic illness (e.g. being isolated in hospital for long periods, experiencing unpleasant medical procedures).

The symptoms of PTSD include: 

  • flashbacks e.g. upsetting intrusive thoughts about a distressing event
  • nightmares
  • difficulty sleeping 
  • loss of interest in activities the person used to find enjoyable
  • feeling on edge/irritable 
  • being very alert and easily startled
  • difficulty concentrating 
  • finding it hard to remember parts of the traumatic event

What are the causes?

Traumatic memories come back because people have not been able to make sense of what has happened to them. Traumatic events often make people question their own mortality and their beliefs that the world is a safe place. Sensory experiences like a smell or sound may bring back a flood of memories, which happened many years ago, producing an anxiety like response.

How is PTSD treated?

Treatment for PTSD may involve therapy and/or medication.  There are different therapies that can be applied to PTSD and are used to make sense of the traumatic events experienced by an individual. Treatment might involve learning ways of coping with the feelings connected to memories and better skills to understand and manage these feelings.

Source of information: beyondblue

PTSD information by beyondblue

beyondblue's information on PTSD includes signs, symptoms and prevalence rates.

Information page about PTSD by Anxiety Treatment Australia

Anxiety Treatment Australia provides information about anxiety disorders, treatment options, psychologists around Australia who treat anxiety disorders, group therapy & workshops, support groups, articles, resource and links to other sites. Attached is a link to their information page about PTSD.

PTSD information in various languages - Mental Health in Multicultural Australia (MHMA)

MHMA provides national leadership in mental health and suicide prevention for Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds. Information about PTSD (under Anxiety Disorders) is available in twenty-three different languages.

People with anxiety may be scared or overwhelmed at the thought of getting help. The type and amount of help that families and friends can provide depends on the relationship you have with the person experiencing the disorder. 

Helping someone who isn't ready to recognise they need assistance can be very difficult.

You can help someone by: 

  • spending time talking about their experiences 
  • indicating that you've noticed a change in their behaviour
  • letting them know you're there to listen without being judgemental 
  • suggesting they see a doctor or health professional
  • recommending and/or assisting them to make an appointment with a doctor or health professional
  • going with the person to the doctor or health professional 
  • asking how their appointment went
  • assisting them to find information about anxiety 
  • talking openly about their feelings
  • encouraging them to try to get enough sleep, exercise and eat well 
  • encourage them to use self-help strategies
  • taking them out and keeping in touch - as well as encouraging friends and family members to do the same 
  • encouraging them to face their fears with support from their doctor/psychologist 
  • contacting a doctor or hospital, if they become a threat to themselves or others

Information about helping someone with anxiety, by beyondblue

This webpage by beyondblue details information on caring for someone with anxiety.

Reference: beyondblue website


beyondblue is a national, independent, not-for-profit organisation working to address issues associated with depression, anxiety and related substance misuse disorders in Australia.

Mental Health in Multicultural Australia (MHMA)

MHMA provides national leadership in mental health and suicide prevention for Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds.

Orygen Youth Health Clinical Program (OYHCP)

Orygen Youth Health Clinical Program (OYHCP) is a world-leading youth mental health program based in Melbourne, Australia. OYHCP sees young people aged 15 to 25, with a focus on early intervention and youth specific approaches.

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