PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a change in the brain which means we struggle to process traumatic events. It can affect memory, concentration, sleep, social interactions all of which could impact someone in the workplace. PTSD is a treatable condition.
PTSD is not...
...a feeling or typical reaction that may fade in time. It is not something that people can ‘shake off’ or ‘snap out of’. It is not dependant on personality or resilience. Anyone can develop PTSD but not everyone will.
How do I recognise it?
The person will have persistent symptoms for at least a month before they can have a diagnosis of PTSD.
Some of those symptoms following a traumatic event include:
• Re-experiencing or flashbacks
• Avoiding people or places that remind them of the incident
• Finding social situations overwhelming
• Sensitivity to light and noise- even in familiar environments
• Negative changes to thoughts and mood
• Unable to function as before - socially, at home, at work...
What can I do?
Talk to them. People worry about saying the wrong thing but it’s better to talk to the person than to avoid it. It’s better to say the wrong thing than nothing at all!
GP should be made aware that there has been an incident.
Regular check ins with you and the individual. PTSD may not manifest until long after the incident.
Encourage strong peer and social support.
Peer support - get them to buddy-up with a colleague who’s experienced the same thing or is understanding and supportive.
Signpost them to appropriate help such as occupational health.
“It’s a sign of weakness - you just need to get over it.” PTSD is not a weakness, it is a processing disorder in the brain. It needs specialist and expert treatment to help people process and understand what they have experienced.
“PTSD can be treated within 2 weeks of incidents.” You need to have experienced consistent symptoms of PTSD for at least a month to get a diagnosis of PTSD. So, although early intervention may be helpful it does not treat PTSD. Individuals react differently to trauma and treatment. Therefore, it is not right to say that PTSD will be treated within two weeks. Treatment is very dependent on the individual.
“Everyone will develop PTSD following a traumatic event.” More common experiences would be depression, anxiety or drinking or heavy drug use. You can have a range of reactions following an event and a diagnosis of PTSD is rare.