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PTSD signs and treatment as Lorraine Kelly says she suffered following Lockerbie bombing

Lorraine Kelly returns to the site of the Lockerbie Bombing in 1988 in a new ITV documentary
Lorraine Kelly returns to the site of the Lockerbie Bombing in 1988 in a new ITV documentary, which she hopes will also raise awareness about PTSD. (ITV)

Ahead of the release of her new ITV documentary about the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, Lorraine Kelly has opened up about suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) after reporting on the tragedy.

Kelly was among the first reporters at the scene on 21 December 1988, when a terrorist bomb that was planted on Pan Am flight 103 sent it hurtling into the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew.

The crash also killed 11 people in the residential street that large sections of the aircraft landed on. Kelly, who was 29 at the time, was an inexperienced reporter at TV-am, the breakfast television franchise that went on to become GMTV, and later, Good Morning Britain.

Her documentary, which will air on Wednesday 15 November, follows Kelly back to the site of the crash and revisiting her own "difficult memories" about it. In a recent interview with The Telegraph, she described the scene as "horrendous".

"Eerie, really quiet, with lots of weird smells. But it is the aviation fuel that I remember the most," she said, adding that the smell of aviation fuel triggers flashbacks for her. She also has nightmares about the event, explaining: "Often times I am above it, like a drone, looking down. That is really awful."

Lorraine Kelly presents onstage at the Women of the Year Lunch & Awards at Royal Lancaster Hotel
Lorraine Kelly says she finally realised she suffered from PTSD while filming the new ITV documentary titled Return to Lockerbie with Lorraine Kelly. (Getty Images)

Speaking of how her PTSD has affected her memory, Kelly said she does not remember seeing bodies at the scene. "I think you do things to protect yourself," she told the publication. "For years, I have always said, 'I do not have the right to this, to have these feelings'. PTSD is not me, that’s for all the people who went through losing people or were living there at the time. Or had been a soldier in a war zone.

"I work with Help for Heroes and so many people in the forces say, 'I’m fine, I’m fine', and they are not fine. But I am fine. I was only reporting on it. That’s not to say I wasn’t very badly affected… So, I am not taking my own advice. I don’t know whether it is the working-class thing."

What is PTSD?

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can manifest after someone experiences very stressful, frightening or distressing events.

According to the NHS, it can be triggered by any situation a person finds traumatic. It can include serious road accidents, violent personal assaults (such as sexual assault, mugging or robbery), serious health problems, or extremely difficult childbirth experiences.

The condition can develop immediately after a person experiences something disturbing, or even weeks, months or years later. It is estimated to affect about one in every three people who have a traumatic experience.

A woman sits against a concrete wall with her hands covering her face
PTSD can develop immediately after a traumatic incident, or some times weeks, months and even years after. (Getty Images)

Scientists do not know why some people develop the condition while others don’t. According to the charity PTSD UK, women aged 16-24 are the most likely group likely to screen positive for PTSD. Age 55-64 is the only age category where men were more likely to screen positive than women for PTSD.

The charity also said that it is estimated there will be as many as 230,000 new PTSD referrals between 2020/21 and 2022/23 in England alone, suggesting a rise of around 77,000 cases a year on average.

What is complex PTSD?

Complex PTSD is usually diagnosed in people who repeatedly experience traumatic situations, such as severe neglect, abuse or violence.

This type of PTSD is usually more severe if the person experienced the trauma early in life. It can affect a child’s development.

Symptoms of PTSD

Symptoms of PTSD and complex PTSD can vary from person to person, but according to PTSD UK, these are some common symptoms in people who suffer from either.

  • Experiencing flashbacks

  • Recurring memories or nightmares related to the event

  • Physical reactions like sweating, trembling, feeling pain or feeling sick

  • Being jumpy and feeling constantly on guard

  • Panic attacks

  • Aversion or difficulty in tolerating certain sounds

  • Avoiding places, events or objects that remind them of the event

  • Staying busy all the time to avoid reminders

  • Using alcohol or drugs to avoid memories

  • Feeling emotionally or physically numb

  • Being unable to remember details of the trauma

  • Overwhelming negative emotions

Watch: Priyanka Chopra suffered post-traumatic stress disorder from childhood bullying

How is PTSD treated?

The NHS guidance states that it is normal to experience "upsetting and confusing thoughts after a traumatic event", but most people "improve naturally over a few weeks".

However, you should see your GP if you or your child are still having problems about four weeks after the event. You should also seek your GP if the symptoms are particularly troublesome.

Your GP may refer you to mental health specialists to assess you further and determine what treatment would be best for you.

Treatments for PTSD depends on how severe the symptoms are and how soon they arose after the traumatic event.

The following treatments may be recommended:

Active monitoring

Monitoring symptoms to see if they improve or worsen without treatment

Antidepressants

Paroxetne or sertraline may be prescribed

Talking therapies

Trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) are common treatments for PTSD

Read more about PTSD and mental health: