Many people associate PTSD with the military and, although it’s true that what used to be called “shell shock” during the First World War is now called PTSD, there are many types of traumatic experience which, if not fully resolved soon after the traumatic event, may lead to a psychiatric diagnosis of PTSD. That’s because the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) lie on a spectrum, with PTSD towards the more severe end. PTS arises when a person experiences trauma that they are not able to make complete sense of at the time and which continues to produce symptoms such as flashbacks long after the traumatic event is over.
PTSD is not inherently distinct from other kinds of trauma, it is simply a point on the spectrum beyond which the symtoms of PTS are classified as PTSD by the medical profession and merit psychiatric intervention. In my opinion, it’s really a question of cost: the NHS can’t afford to treat everyone suffering from PTS, so the PTSD diagnosis is used to decide who among those in need of the greatest level of psychological help will receive it from the NHS. For further information, I have listed the criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD here: Diagostic Criteria for PTSD.
If you feel it would be helpful to know whether or not you fit the diagnostic criteria for PTSD, I recommend you contact your GP and ask for a referral to a psychiatrist.
Whether you have received a psychiatric diagnosis of PTSD, or you feel it may apply to you, counselling may help you make sense of your traumatic memories and your current symptoms, and put the past firmly where it belongs: in the past. Please see my article on trauma counselling here for more details: Counselling For Trauma