PTSD: It's Not Just a Problem for the Military; Although Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Affects Up to 30% of People Who Go through a Traumatic Event, There Is Still a Lack of Knowledge of the Condition. Health Correspondent Julia McWatt Spoke to Researchers at Cardiff University about Their Efforts to Gain a Wider Understanding of the Condition

Article excerpt

DESPITE being commonly associated with those who have served in the armed forces, PTSD can affect anyone who has experienced some kind of trauma - with 5% of men and 10% of women experiencing symptoms at some point in their lives.

Someone with PTSD will often relive the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, and they may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt. They may also have problems sleeping, such as insomnia, and find concentrating difficult. These symptoms are often severe and persistent enough to have a significant impact on day-to-day life.

Trauma focused Psychological Therapies including Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing are the treatments of choice for PTSD. These are recommended as first-line interventions for the disorder, with evidence for pharmacological treatments being less compelling.

Unfortunately, for many sufferers, waiting lists in Wales can be extremely long and patients may be forced to wait months before they can access the help they desperately need. However, Cardiff University is currently conducting research into the condition which is intended to improve treatment for patients and provide a greater understanding of the condition. Researchers led by Professor Jonathan Bisson have developed an online tool to help those in need of treatment. Spring: a step by step treatment for PTSD, is an alternative method of delivering therapy, which demands less therapist time.

The programme was developed systematically over a number of years with the involvement of stakeholders. An online version of the programme has been produced through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership between Healthcare Learning Smile-on and Cardiff University Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences.

It consists of an introduction, followed by eight online steps, to be completed in turn. Later steps rely on mastery of techniques taught by earlier steps, which activate a new tool or technique derived from CBT, which will aim to reduce traumatic stress symptoms. Guidance will be provided by a trauma therapist.

The programme is initiated with an hour-long face-to-face appointment, followed by fortnightly 30-minute sessions. Dr Catrin Lewis, of Cardiff University's Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences, who is co-ordinating the project, said: "Cur-rently the most effective way of treating PTSD is talking therapies, which generally more effective than medication. …