PTSD — or post-traumatic stress disorder — is a mental health condition that’s only recently begun to gain understanding among the general public. For years, the debilitating traumatic condition was referred to as “shell shock“, and only described the experience of soldiers. Now, the term can be applied to anyone who’s experienced significant trauma.
But just like any physical illness, the key in treating PTSD is to understand PTSD symptoms. Learning the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder is important in understanding how to cope with PTSD. You can’t learn to get over your anxieties if you don’t know what’s causing them in the first place.
This article will walk you through several symptoms of PTSD, so you can answer the question — do I have PTSD? — for yourself or a loved one.
1. Reliving Experiences
The more stereotypical symptom of PTSD is “flashbacks”. While it’s damaging to base ideas of mental health on stereotypes, there is a kernel of truth in this.
It’s quite unclear why PTSD exactly occurs. Specialists think it’s a combination of a coping mechanism and changes in the brain.
Those suffering from PTSD often relive past experiences. This can come in the form of a flashback. The most common example of these are former soldiers who think they’re still in the war — they may wake up and harm their spouses if they sleep in bed with them.
This can also come in the form of persistent nightmares about the event. PTSD can even be signified by unpleasant memories that just don’t leave the brain no matter how hard you try to focus on other things.
Those reliving experiences might also have emotional and distressing reactions to things that remind them of the event. If someone has experienced spousal abuse, they may respond in anxiety and attacks whenever an argument with a loved one comes up — even if that argument was subdued.
Reliving experiences becomes extra problematic when it leads to avoidance.
People suffering from PTSD may avoid situations where they believe they might be triggered. This can have a vast impact on the fullness and quality of their life.
They might avoid places where the traumatic event occurred. They may even stay away from places that remind them or look like places where the traumatic event occurred. They may distance themselves from people who remind them of the incident and avoid situations where they may end up in a similar situation again.
The most common example of this is a traumatized soldier staying clear of fireworks. Another example, however, is someone who suffered a rape at a party staying away from parties in their future — no matter how big or small.
Avoidance can also come in the form of staying away from topics they think will stir memories of the trauma.
One should note that this is district from not wanting to talk about the incident. Indeed, it’s mostly likely unhealthy if someone obsessively talks about the incident, or brings it up in polite conversation. However, if this person avoids conversations that even tangentially relate to the topic, they may be suffering from PTSD.
Trauma often breeds paranoia. Certain events can’t be prevented, but when they happen trauma can easily convince someone that they can’t trust anyone.
This can manifest in the traumatized person believing that everyone is out to get them. It can also lead to the traumatized person only thinking of themselves and considering their friend incompetent and helpless to stop any further incidents from happening to them.
Paranoia can come out in physical and emotional reactions. Someone can always keep themselves on the alert from danger, even when it isn’t healthy to do so.
This person might also have angry outbursts when their protocols for safety aren’t being followed. If they believe that you’re attempting to get between them and what they need to feel safe, they might become angry at you. Even if the precautions they’re taking are completely ridiculous.
This person’s concentration and focus could break, as they obsess over their own personal safety.
If you or someone you know is struggling with paranoia, get in touch with a PTSD therapist.
Reenactment is the process of recreating the traumatic scenario, whether consciously or unconsciously. It can be difficult to understand why someone might do this, but it often happens.
Children make use of play and imagination to process the world around them. If a child has experienced a traumatic event, they may work it into their play to try to make sense of what happened.
Someone who’s suffered from sexual abuse may choose to roleplay a similar scenario in consensual sex. They may do this to gain a sense of control and power back about the incident, as well as generally get in touch with their sexuality.
People can subconsciously reenact traumatic experiences as well. If someone suffered trauma at the hands of an abusive parent, they may seek out partners who are also abusive, as a way to subconsciously recreate the situation.
If you notice someone exhibiting behavior that’s similar to one that damaged them, they may have developed PTSD.
Understand PTSD Symptoms
PTSD is a mental health disorder that’s tough to understand since it’s so closely linked to the past. No matter how much we seek to uncover about the past, the blurriness of the picture never truly clears away.
Understanding PTSD symptoms is our only hope of treating them.
If you or a loved one has relived experiences through flashbacks or nightmares, avoided situations or places that reminded you of a traumatic incident, began acting paranoid and hypervigilant about safety, and reenacted traumas consciously or subconsciously, you/they may suffer from PTSD. Help is available, so be sure to talk to someone if you suspect PTSD is the cause.
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