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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health problem that can result from traumatic events. It can make you feel scared, confused, or angry. And you may have nightmares or flashbacks. PTSD can cause a lot of distress and can affect your daily life. But many people get better with treatment.
Being treated in the ICU may save your life, but it can be traumatic. People in the ICU may be hooked up to machines so they can't move. If they need a breathing tube, they can't talk. They may be afraid that they're going to die. And they may be alone because visitors are limited.
People in the ICU may be given sedative medicines, which can make them feel drowsy and confused. They may drift in and out of sleep and remember only parts of events. They may have nightmares or see or hear things that aren't really there (hallucinations). Later, they may have scary memories that may or may not be real. For example, people might think that doctors or nurses were hurting them instead of helping them.
These experiences may lead to PTSD. It's more likely to happen to people who've been diagnosed with depression or anxiety in the past.
PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event. But they may not happen until months or years later. They also may come and go.
You may have PTSD if you:
Children can have PTSD too. They may have the symptoms listed above or other symptoms that vary based on their age. For example, young children may act out trauma through play, but older children may engage in risky behaviours.
If you think you or your child has PTSD, talk to your doctor or a counsellor. Treatment can help.
Treatment for PTSD includes cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and antidepressant medicines. There are many types of CBT. You may need to try different types of treatment before you find the one that helps you. Treatment can help you to feel more in control of your emotions, have fewer symptoms, and enjoy life again.
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Where to get help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
If you or someone you know talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away.
Consider saving these numbers in your phone.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter P375 in the search box to learn more about "Learning About PTSD After a Stay in the ICU".
Current as of: October 20, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Heather Quinn MD - Family Medicine & Lesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine & Donald Sproule MDCM, CCFP - Family Medicine
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