The symptoms and diagnosis of PTSD

Written by: Dr Pravir Sharma
Edited by: Carlota Pano

PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a mental health condition that can develop after experiencing a traumatic event, requiring comprehensive treatment and support to navigate it.


Here, Dr Pravir Sharma, renowned consultant psychiatrist, offers his expert insight into the causes, symptoms, and the treatments available for PTSD.



What is PTSD?


PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is understood as a psychological and physical reaction to a traumatic event that has happened in someone’s life. This traumatic event is sudden and almost life-threatening in proportion.


When someone is suddenly exposed to such an event, like a road traffic accident, the experience leaves certain psychological and physical impacts that can arise later on.


What are the symptoms of PTSD?


Sometimes, symptoms may start immediately. Other times, symptoms start within a month of the event.


These symptoms include:

  • Flashbacks: Flashbacks are recollections – images, sounds, memories – of the event as it happened that come into your mind without volition during your waking period.
  • Nightmares: Nightmares are when recollections come into your dreams and wake you up from sleep.
  • Hyper-vigilance: Hyper-vigilance is a state of the mind and body where you are expecting something terrible to happen, you can't relax, and you are very easily startled by loud noises. This period of hyper-vigilance can last for a few days to a few months.
  • Development of a phobia: The phobia can be of the event that has occurred or something similar. For example, someone who has had a road traffic accident may develop a phobia of traffic or a phobia of cars. This phobia can last for months to years if it's not treated.
  • Sustained change in mood: Someone’s mood can become anxious and/or depressed.


The symptoms of PTSD are very amenable to treatment, and this is why it's necessary to recognise and diagnose them early on.


What are the causes of PTSD?


Any traumatic event which is very severe, sudden, and life-threatening – for example, a serious road traffic accident or a violent personal assault – can give rise to PTSD.


How is PTSD diagnosed?


The characteristic features of PTSD include:

  1. A sudden, severe, and life-threatening traumatic event.
  2. Symptoms that start within a month of that event.
  3. Symptoms that fall under one of these five categories: flashbacks, nightmares, hyper-vigilance, development of a phobia, sustained change in mood.


How is PTSD treated?


Treatment consists of a trauma-focused CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), where cognitive techniques and methods are employed focusing on the trauma and its experience.


The first part of this therapy involves the diagnosis and treatment of depression and/or anxiety problems. The second part involves EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing) therapy, which is delivered under the guidance of a specialist.


PTSD symptoms require diagnosis and regular monitoring through psychiatric consultations and a complete course of trauma-focused CBT sessions, which may range from 10 to 15 sessions.



If you are living with symptoms of PTSD, don’t hesitate to reach out to Dr Pravir Sharma via his Top Doctors profile today.

By Dr Pravir Sharma

Dr Pravir Sharma is a highly-trained consultant psychiatrist in Birmingham, the West Midlands, and specialises in mental health issues in the elderly and general adult psychiatry. His focus also includes depression, dementia and anxiety disorders alongside post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and bipolar disorder. He is also renowned for his expertise in obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorders, schizophrenia and mood disorders. Dr Sharma sees patients at Sutton Medical Consulting in Sutton-Coldfield and also provides e-Consultations for international and UK patients.

He completed his basic and postgraduate training at the well-regarded National Institute of Mental Health Neurosciences, Bangalore, India, before moving to the UK to specialise in old-age psychiatry. Dr Sharma worked in a full-time substantive post with Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Trust for more than 18 years retiring from his post in June 2021. He is currently working as a Locum Consultant in a NHS Trust in West Midlands and has also been appointed by the Care Quality Commission as a second opinion doctor. 

Dr Sharma has dedicated his years' training and professional years in psychiatry to treat his patients to the best of his ability. Beyond his full-time work for the NHS and his time with his private clinics, he is also active in medico-legal work. He can act as an expert witness, prepare medico-legal reports, appear in court, and has experience in personal injury, mental capacity and clinical negligence cases relating to his area of expertise. Additionally, he is skilled in acting as an expert witness in cases relating to immigration as well as employment tribunals, the preparation of occupational health or psychiatric reports, including those relating to road traffic accidents, PTSD or industrial or workplace injuries. Dr Sharma is Section 12(2) Approved for the use of Mental Health Act. 

Additionally, Dr Sharma has conducted research and appeared in multiple publications in national and international journals over the years. Keeping his involvement in his field well-rounded, he was also an active member of groups and associations in roles such as medical appraiser, educational supervisor and examiner.

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