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What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

By Chris Douglas
Assistant Claims Manager

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is believed to occur in 33% of people who have been involved in a traumatic event; 8% of people will be affected by it at some point in their lives.

As an in-house rehabilitation team we facilitate a considerable amount of treatment for people suffering from PTSD and thought it would be useful to explain it in a bit more detail.

PTSD usually occurs following a serious accident, with sufferers either involved in or witnesses of the incident.


What are the symptoms of PTSD?

  • Re-experiencing the event: this may involve flashbacks, nightmares and frightening thoughts, such as “I could have died”.
  • Avoidance: people with PTSD will avoid the area or stop doing the activity that caused the injury, for example driving.
  • Signs of depression: sufferers may report feeling emotionally numb or guilty, or may develop issues with sleeping and have trouble remembering dates or important information.
  • Hypersensitive: PTSD can cause individuals to be on constant edge and be easily startled. 


What is the treatment and is it required?

All of these symptoms are very common following a major incident, but that doesn't mean an automatic diagnosis of PTSD. Individuals should be closely monitored and given reassurance that these symptoms are normal.

Over 60% of potential cases will settle without the need for treatment, this is supported by current clinical evidence and is why QBE does not fund psychological services untill clinically advocated and justified.

Only if an individual reports severe symptoms during the first four weeks following the incident will a PTSD diagnosis be considered. It is advised in the early stages following an incident that people are not encouraged to re-live the events as this can bring on PTSD.  

If treatment is to be provided within 3 months of the incident, sufferers should be offered up to 12 sessions of 60-90 minutes duration of trauma-focused CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). This type of treatment works by asking people to focus on their memories, thoughts and feelings about the event and think more positively.

If treatment is to be offered more than 3 months after the incident, trauma-focused CBT may be combined with eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR). This works by asking people to concentrate on images linked to the event while simultaneously focusing on a external sensory stimuli, such as hand taps. This process is tailored to the needs of the patient and then repeated a number of times gradually until adverse psychological reactions are controlled.

If you would like to know more, we suggest the following links.

NICE Guidelines on PTSD http://www.nice.org.uk/nicemedia/pdf/CG026publicinfo.pdf

Trauma-focused CBT http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Post-traumatic-stress-disorder/Pages/Treatment.aspx

Further information on EMDR http://www.emdrnetwork.org/description.html