Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome

Frequently Asked Questions

What is traumatic for one person may not be so for another. However, it is generally accepted that certain events, like threat of death, serious injury, seeing dead bodies, death or serious injury of a close friend/colleague/family member or witnessing wide spread human degradation, have the potential to cause significant distress.

Most people will normally experience strong reactions after traumatic events. Commonly, these include re-living the event, having intrusive thoughts about the event, avoiding anything that reminds them of the event, feeling sad and tearful, feeling highly anxious or panicky, sleep disturbances, being easily startled, extreme irritability, difficulties concentrating or remembering, excessive use of alcohol or drugs, and relationship problems.

The initial symptoms of traumatic stress would be expected to subside after 2 to 4 weeks since the traumatic event. If the symptoms persist longer than this, you should seek professional help to manage the symptoms and to reduce their impact upon your ability to function.

No. There is a continuum of how people react to PTEs or CIs, from mild disturbance to quite severe impact. Generally, the more severe the reaction, the more likely a person is to develop PTSD - however, if the symptoms diminish within a few weeks, it is less likely that the person will go on to develop PTSD.

PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a serious mental illness that can occur after exposure to a traumatic event. It is characterised by repeated and disturbing images or memories of the event, avoiding places or situations that remind people of the event and significant hyper-arousal including exaggerated startle responses and sleep problems.

PTSD is a serious mental illness that will significantly impact upon a person's quality of life. It does not mean you are going to change to an entirely different person, or not be able to lead a quality life.

The  Dents in the Soul —helping to cope with PTSD booklet (PDF 408.17 KB) includes guidelines for accessing support. The booklet suggests that questions are written down and then discussed with local mental health professionals or providers. These are described in the booklet as Nurses, Chaplains, Psychologists, Social Workers, Psychiatrists or Medical Officers. 

Additional Resources and Contacts

All Hours Support Line (ASL)

  • 1800 628 036

Defence Family Helpline (Defence Member and Family Support)

  • 1800 624 608

Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling

  • 1800 011 046

Mental Health Online 

Joint Health Command

Defence Families of Australia

Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA)

  • 13 32 54

Phoenix Australia Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health