Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a form of anxiety disorder which is caused by stressful, frightening, or distressing events.

More specifically, PTSD is often caused due to a traumatic event such as serious road accidents, violent personal assaults such as sexual assault, a serious health problem, etc. It is common that PTSD does not occur straight after the traumatic event, instead it can take weeks or months for PTSD to develop.

Individuals who suffer from PTSD often relive the traumatic event at night in the form of nightmares or as flashbacks during the day. Sometimes there are certain sounds or things which can trigger someone with PTSD. Individuals suffering from PTSD can experience feelings of isolation and guilt and will sometimes have problems sleeping and concentrating. PTSD can also cause panic attacks for the person suffering if something has triggered them.

How can the University Support you?

If you want to report an incident to the University, such as sexual assault, you can report this to the University by using the Online Reporting Tool. You can report an incident and choose to stay anonymous if you are afraid that someone might not be happy with you reporting the incident. Once you have filed the report one of the University’s trained advisers might contact you and discuss your options or if the incident has involved someone else, they might contact them.

If you instead want to receive support from the University’s Mental Wellbeing Team without reporting an incident, you can do so by completing the Online Referral form.

What to do next?

Report via our Online Reporting Tool

If you need support after an incident, you should start off by filing a report using the University’s Online Reporting Tool.

If your unsure, you can talk to our Mental Wellbeing Team

If you feel a bit unsure about reporting the incident or not it can be a good idea to ask to talk to the Mental Wellbeing team first and get their advice on the matter first. You can contact the team by filling out the Online Referral form.

If you need a formal diagnosis talk to your GP

If you feel pretty sure that you are suffering from PTSD, it is a good idea to go to your GP and get a formal diagnosis as this can allow you to get the professional help you might need.

What should I do if I am worried about somebody else?

Firstly, it is important to note that you are not expected to take care of someone who is experiencing PTSD. It can be very difficult to help someone with PTSD, just by noticing that someone might be experiencing PTSD and encouraging them to seek support from someone else you are helping them.

If you feel like you want to and can support someone who is experiencing PTSD there are a lot of things which you can do to support them.

  1. Listening to them – it might be difficult for someone with PTSD to open up to others, if someone chooses to open up to you about it and you feel like you can handle listening to them then it is important that you give them the time they need to talk about it. In most cases the best help you can provide is to just listen, not asking any questions or offering any advice but just listening. Additionally, it is very important to not dismiss or diminish their feelings or experiences.
  2. Learn what their triggers are – many people suffering with PTSD experience nightmares and flashbacks which are often triggered by something. This could be certain conversations, places, sounds or objects. By understanding their triggers, you can help them avoid situations in which they might be exposed to these triggers and be more prepared if they are triggered.
  3. Learn how to support them when they are experiencing flashbacks – Flashbacks are vivid experiences in which an individual might relive aspects of the traumatic event(s) which they were involved in. Flashbacks can also lead to panic attacks, so do not be alarmed if someone feels like they are experiencing shortness of breath, screaming or if their heart is beating very fast. Some things that you can do when someone is experiencing a flashback are:
    • In a calm and soothing voice, tell them that they are having a flashback and that they are safe and that they are not in the situation where the traumatic event took place.
    • Encourage them to breathe slowly and deeply
    • Attempt to get them to engage in a technique called grounding. Ask them for 5 things they can see, 4 things they can feel, 3 things they can hear, 2 things they can smell and 1 thing they can taste.

If you are very worried about someone or if you feel out of your depth when dealing with someone who is experiencing PTSD, that is OK. You can call emergency services by dialling 999 if you are worried the person might harm themselves or others.

External Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if I have PTSD

If you can answer YES to most of the questions it is likely that you are affected by PTSD.

    • Have you ever experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, for example, rape, shooting, car accident etc.?
    • Do you frequently get upset whilst thinking about a traumatic event?
    • Do you experience “flashbacks” in which you feel as if you are re-living a traumatic event?
    • Do you feel emotionally numb or on edge due to experiencing a traumatic event?
    • Are you aware of avoiding doing things that remind you of a traumatic event?

If you answer yes to most of these question you should arrange a consultation with your GP for a formal diagnosis.

I’ve experienced something traumatic will I definitely experience PTSD?

PTSD is estimated to affect about 1 in every 3 people who have a traumatic experience, but it's not clear exactly why some people develop the condition and others do not. 

When might I experience PTSD?

PTSD can develop immediately after someone experiences a disturbing event, or it can occur weeks, months or even years later. 

Do I have to report my incident in order to receive support?

No, you are under no obligation to report what you have experienced in order to receive support. You can let us know you need support by completing our Mental Wellbeing Team’s Online Referral form. Please be aware that as part of this form we will ask what your concerns are about your mental health and wellbeing. 

What are some common symptoms of PTSD?

Some common things you may experience include: 

    • Reliving what you have experience through flashbacks, intrusive thoughts or flashbacks, nightmares, intense distress at reminders of the trauma and Physical sensations such as pain, sweating, nausea or trembling 
    • Feeling alertness or on edge. This includes extreme alertness (known as hypervigilance), disturbed sleep, irritable or aggressive behaviour, being jumpy or easily startled. 
    • Avoiding feelings or memories. For example you may feel you need to be constantly busy to avoid memories of the trauma or using drugs and alcohol to avoid memories. 
    • Having difficult beliefs or feelings such as that you can’t trust anybody, and that nowhere is safe. 

I’m struggling with flashbacks, what can I do to help myself?

There are lots of things you can do to help yourself during a flashback, not all of these will help and it’s about finding what works best for you. Some things you can try to include: 

    • Reminding yourself that you are safe 
    • Comfort yourself – this could be by cuddling up under a blanket, cuddling a pet or favourite soft toy, listening to soothing music or watching your favourite film. 
    • Try grounding techniques such as looking for 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, 1 thing you can taste.  

You can find further guidance for caring for yourself on Mind’s website

Last Updated: 30th August 2022