Post Traumatic Stress is a state of mind, induced when you experience or are involved in a disturbing or 'traumatic' event. It is an emotional and physiological response to an event that is outside the range of normal human experience.

Sufferers experiencing PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) are perfectly normal people, experiencing normal reactions to abnormal situations.

PTSD has existed since the times of the ancient Greeks and before.  PTSD has been known previously as "soldier’s heart", in World War 1 "shell shock", World War II "war neurosis" and more recently "combat fatigue". The expression "combat stress reaction" arose after many soldiers developed symptoms in Vietnam. The symptoms initially did not subside, and many went on to develop Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder, which at last was given a diagnostic criteria within the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic Statistical Manual. Edition 3

PTSD can occur as a result of:

    • military combat
    • witnessing murder
    • being a victim of violent crime
    • rape
    • being involved in a fatal traffic accident
    • being present at a serious incident
    • professional trauma in police and fire service
    • bereavement

There is a cross-over between trauma and bereavement. Bereavement is a traumatic event and those suffering trauma as a result of an incident involving the death of somebody can be dealing with bereavement issues as well as trauma issues.  This is particularly relevant to armed forces personnel.

Early PTSD symptoms include:

    • Headaches, aches and pains from joints
    • Feeling tired and lethargic
    • Finding it impossible to concentrate, inability to complete simple tasks
    • Poor memory and concentration
    • A total lack of energy
    • Irritability, inability to relax, disturbed sleep

The symptoms above could so easily be mistaken for Anxiety, Depression, even chronic fatigue syndrome, (referred to as 'ME').When questioned further by the GP, the following symptoms are present:

    • Hypervigilance,
    • Disturbing dreams,
    • Flashbacks
    • Night sweats

If the presentations are delayed for several months or longer following the trauma it is at this stage the Doctor may enquire if there has been any history of a stressful event. An event may come forth where they experienced intense horror, fear or helplessness. It is now the pieces of a large jigsaw are beginning to fit into place at last. The patient is now informed the likely cause of these distressful symptoms may be termed PTSD.

The patient feels a little better knowing there is something wrong. They are not cracking up, they are not mentally ill. What are now taking place are natural and normal reactions to something, which is certainly NOT NATURAL to most human beings.

When a diagnosis of PTSD is made, that is fine. It is now the frustration that lies ahead in an attempt to get treatment. Survivors referred to me have personally informed me they would have had a wait of 12-18 months had they not got an appointment; this is totally outrageous and unacceptable.

A support system is the very least required at this stage, otherwise it goes from a solitary individual’s problem, which begins to affect spouses, children, and family and work colleagues. This is where Tertiary PTSD takes a stranglehold. The whole cycle starts off again within another, and may be not picked up for weeks, months even years.

- Revd Dr David Bennett, Trauma Specialist 
 • Director of Trauma Centre (UK)   • Executive Director Emergency Trauma Services