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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a strong and lasting emotional reaction to a traumatic event. PTSD can make you feel scared, confused, or angry; have nightmares or flashbacks; and be easily angered or "on edge." It can cause such severe emotional distress that your daily life is affected.
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:
If you think you have 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:
Go to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention webpage at http://suicideprevention.ca/need-help to find a suicide crisis prevention centre in your area if you or someone you know is:
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call 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: June 22, 2020
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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