POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD)
PTSD definition: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
A condition of persistent mental and emotional stress occurring as a result of injury or severe psychological shock, typically involving disturbance of sleep and constant vivid recall of the experience, with dulled responses to others and to the outside world.
Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING THE SYMPTOMS OF PTSD KNOW THAT HELP IS AVAILABLE.
Most people who go through traumatic events may have temporary difficulty adjusting and coping, but with time and good self-care, they usually get better. If the symptoms get worse, last for months or even years, and interfere with your day-to-day functioning, you may have PTSD.
Getting effective treatment after PTSD symptoms develop can be critical to reduce symptoms and improve function.
SYMPTOMS OF PTSD
An individual with PTSD will often experience flashbacks to the traumatic event, which are memories that become so vivid, they will seem to the person as if they are happening all over again. Flashbacks can be triggered by a certain event, person, or object or happen completely without warning. “Reliving the event may cause intense feelings of fear, helplessness, and horror similar to the feelings [the person] had when the event took place.”
Hyperarousal is the state of being extremely physically and psychologically sensitive or alert, to the point where it becomes painful and difficult for the individual. According to the NIMH, the symptoms of hyperarousal include:
- Being easily startled
- Feeling tense or on edge constantly
- Having problems sleeping
- Displaying angry outbursts seemingly for no reason
- Feeling extreme anxiety or stress all the time
These are signs that the individual does not feel comfortable anywhere and cannot relax, which is tied to a traumatic event of some kind. The effect of the discomfort and fear associated with PTSD will often manifest in more than one of these ways.
Avoidance of Reminders
People who “stay… away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience” are displaying another sign of PTSD. This sign can sometimes appear early on after an upsetting event. If the individual does not exhibit intense emotions over this avoidance or if they start to ease back into these revisiting events or places slowly over time, it may be nothing to worry about. However, if they absolutely refuse to go to a place that reminds them of the traumatic event for a prolonged amount of time, they may be harboring more serious issues.
Apathy and Numbness
Those who experience PTSD often feel unable to enjoy anything that used to be important to them and complain of feeling numb. They become incredibly apathetic when it comes to their day-to-day lives and often show signs of depression as well. Because they are unable to move past the trauma, nothing seems as sweet or fulfilling as it once did, which is why many individuals experience this issue as a part of PTSD.
Feelings of Guilt
Especially in the case of those who have survived a traumatic event like a car or plane crash or a natural disaster in which others perished, feelings of guilt can be an incredibly strong sign of PTSD. When these feelings begin to invade a person’s entire life, they are more than likely caused by the individual’s inability to move on and regret at living through an event in which other individuals were killed. People might feel this intense level of guilt in other scenarios too, including veterans of war or victims of rape.
Someone who has undergone a traumatic event will often attempt to self-medicate with the use of drugs and/or alcohol. This is incredibly common among PTSD-affected individuals. According to the NIDA, “Compared with the general population, people addicted to drugs are roughly twice as likely to suffer from mood and anxiety disorders, with the reverse also true.” PTSD is under the umbrella of anxiety disorders, and severe substance abuse can also be a sign of this type of condition.
Flashbacks can be incredibly difficult for individuals with PTSD to handle, but sometimes, “scary thoughts” which the individual cannot control can be just as harmful (OWH). These thoughts may include suicidal or homicidal ones or even those which cannot be explained. If you feel you are experiencing thoughts such as these or hear someone else complain of them, this can be a clear sign of PTSD, especially if the thoughts somehow relate to the traumatic event.
According to the NIMH, “Having trouble remembering the dangerous event” could also be a sign of PTSD, one which contrasts with flashbacks. Certain individuals may struggle to remember what happened to them while others will gladly push these memories away. This is not a safe coping method, however, and could cause the individual to develop others such as substance abuse, dangerous sexual behavior, etc. Just because you cannot remember the event does not mean you are not being constantly affected by it in another way.
Feelings of Isolation
When a person begins to feel like they are always alone, even if they are surrounded by people, this can be a sign of PTSD. Coupled with the hyperarousal and depressive symptoms that can occur during this condition, people often isolate themselves on purpose, refusing to let others in. Also, because many individuals tend to avoid certain places in the wake of trauma, their isolation will become even stronger and they may start to avoid more and more people, places, and things. Eventually, they will be alone with their thoughts which will only become darker over time.
A Life Crumbling
According to the VA, “In general, people with PTSD have more unemployment, divorce or separation, spouse abuse and a chance of being fired than people without PTSD.” This is because, no matter what the individual with this condition does, the effects will become detrimental to their everyday life if they do not receive treatment. It is also common for others to only become aware of this condition after the person’s life begins to crumble, as signs can only start to develop “months or even years” after the event, depending on the individual (USDHHS).
Other symptoms may occur, and certain combinations of these signs may be exhibited by different individuals. It is also important to note that the signs of PTSD differ for afflicted children who may forget how to speak, start wetting the bed, act out the traumatic event while playing, or become extremely clingy to a parent or loved one.
PTSD is a dangerous condition that can occur after an extremely traumatic event and affect a person’s entire life.
Therefore, knowing the possible signs is so important, especially the main ten listed above.
Below is a brief quiz you can take to see if you have PTSD. It takes only minutes.
After you take the quiz, GIVE IT TO YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER.
Download, Print and Take the PTSD Test
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