man sat with his head in his hands

What is PTSD?

PTSD stands for post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s a mental health condition that can develop in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event.

Examples of traumatic events and situations that can cause PTSD include:

  • Serious accidents
  • Natural disasters
  • Physical or sexual assault
  • Serious health problems or emergencies
  • Losing a loved one
  • Wars
  • Terrorist attacks.

Events such as these are an unfortunate part of life, and we may experience them at some point. Struggling to cope after a traumatic event is normal. But if you’re not recovering or are feeling worse with time, you may be at risk of PTSD.


Who is at risk of getting PTSD?

Researchers aren’t sure why some people are more likely to get PTSD, but there are some contributing factors that may put people at greater risk. These may include genetic factors, a history of trauma, previous mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, and not getting enough support after the traumatic event.

According to the National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, 12% of Australians experience PTSD in their lifetime[1].


What are the symptoms of PTSD?

Common symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Severe anxiety
  • Panic and fear
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Feeling constantly ‘on edge’
  • Lack of concentration
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Constantly thinking about the traumatic event
  • Avoiding people and places associated with the traumatic event
  • Feeling down.

These symptoms can also cause physical reactions, like a racing heartbeat, night sweats, pain, trembling and shortness of breath.

People who have PTSD for a longer time, may be more likely to develop other mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety and addiction.


When to see a health professional

If you or someone you know is feeling worse after the traumatic event and struggles to cope, see a GP or healthcare professional.

Your healthcare professional will assess your mental health and develop a personalised treatment plan. Common PTSD treatments can include medications and psychotherapies, like cognitive behaviour therapy. You may also get a referral for a mental health specialist, like a psychologist or psychiatrist.

The earlier PTSD is diagnosed and treated, the better the potential for recovery.

Don’t let symptoms build up and seek help if you’re not feeling like yourself or just want to talk about your mental health.


Where to get help

Making an appointment with your GP or healthcare professional is the first step towards getting help. It’s important to talk about your feelings and be open about your symptoms. Remember that PTSD is not your fault or a sign of weakness. There are supports available to help you recover, overcome your symptoms and live a healthy life.

Some people with PTSD experience suicidal thoughts. If you or someone you know may be at risk of suicidal thoughts, contact SuicideLine Victoria on 1300 651 251 to speak to a counsellor.


SuicideLine Victoria is a free 24/7 telephone and online counselling service offering professional support to people at risk of suicide, people concerned about someone else’s risk of suicide, and people bereaved by suicide.

If it is an emergency, call 000.