People who have suffered trauma and are at risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) should be offered therapy within one month, NICE says in new draft guidance.

The updated guidance gives recommendations on preventing and manging PTSD. Adults who are at risk of PTSD should be offered individualised cognitive-behavioural therapy within a month of experiencing a stressful event. Children can be considered for group therapy after shared trauma to reduce the risk of developing PTSD, the guidance says.

Professor Mark Baker, director for the centre of guidelines at NICE, said: “PTSD is a treatable condition but the pain of revisiting past events can prevent people seeking the help they need. We have updated our guidance to make sure that PTSD is managed as early as possible and give advice on coordinating the complex needs that are often associated with this condition.”

PTSD is an anxiety disorder associated with a range of catastrophic, frightening or stressful events. Approximately a quarter of people who experience one of these situations will develop PTSD-related symptoms. These can include vivid flashbacks, increased anxiety and difficulty sleeping. The draft guidance, which is now open for consultation, will replace the original NICE PTSD guideline which was published in 2005.

The updated recommendations ask practitioners to take into account that PTSD sufferers may have additional problems such as depression and that symptoms may present themselves in unusual ways. In most cases where a person has both PTSD and depression, treating PTSD successfully will, as a consequence, improve the depression.

PTSD suffers may struggle to engage in therapy. NICE says that alternative methods of communication should be considered for example, text messages and video.

If other therapies are unsuccessful, a treatment called eye-movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) can be offered to children after 3 months. EMDR uses back and forth eye movements to restructure a person’s memories about the event.

The draft recommendations will be available for consultation until the 23rd July 2018.