My symptoms are extreme and not going away

Some people suffer extreme emotional symptoms and / or physical symptoms. This includes flashbacks, when you feel the crash is happening again, or extremely vivid and scary thoughts and dreams. Other people suffer suicidal feelings on a regular basis.

Physical symptoms resulting from emotional stress include problems eating, problems sleeping, or aches and pains not related to any injury. Some people develop problems such as a stutter, or suffer from shaking limbs, or develop a phobia, such as an inability to leave the house. Other people may struggle to get out of bed and do day-to-day tasks due to emotional upset.

Such symptoms usually fade away with support and care, but sometimes they don’t. If your symptoms are still extreme and have been continuing for more than a month, it is important to seek professional help.

What you can do

Seek professional help

Usually, appropriate treatment is regular sessions of confidential counselling, over many weeks, with an appropriately qualified counsellor who is experienced in helping people who have suffered a traumatic event. Often this counselling is referred to as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. This kind of counselling is appropriate whether you are an adult or a child.

You may find that hospital staff or your GP offer you the chance to see a counsellor for free. It is, however, important to ensure they are offering you a service provided by a counsellor who is appropriately qualified and experienced, and also is available soon. It is not a good idea to delay getting this support, or to agree to support from someone who is not qualified or experienced in treating people who have suffered a major traumatic event.

The NHS often has waiting lists; but your needs are important, now. Ask your GP to ensure you are seen as soon as possible. If you think you need help seeking the right support, quickly, call the Brake helpline on 0808 8000 401. Brake can liaise, on your behalf, with medical practitioners to seek the support you need.

It is usually appropriate that, firstly, you have your symptoms identified and assessed. This may result in you being diagnosed as suffering from a condition such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or depression. NHS guidelines on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guideline no. 26) can be viewed at

Being diagnosed with a condition does not mean you are a weak person. Such conditions are normal following a traumatic event, and it is possible to treat these conditions successfully. This treatment is likely to include at least ten counselling sessions, and often more. Drug treatments can help some people but are not recommended by the NHS as preferable to talk-based therapy.

If you cannot obtain help quickly through the NHS, you may wish to consider paying for private treatment. Sometimes this is possible to fund as part of a claim for compensation.

Lists of providers of therapists who can assess your needs, some through the NHS, some privately, are available from the following organisations:

British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy

United Kingdom Psychological Trauma Society

If you are feeling suicidal, call The Samaritans on 116 123. The Samaritans is a counselling line, open seven days a week, 24 hours a day, for anyone in need. It is staffed by trained volunteers. You can also email

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