PTSD Symptoms

 

The symptoms of PTSD are relatively clear cut:

 

Re-experiencing: This is a typical effect of PTSD in which something that happens to the individual triggers reactions directly related to the original experiences which generated the PTSD condition. These may come in the form of:

 

  • Flashbacks—which are the reliving of the original traumatic experiences over and over.

  • Physical effects of flashbacks: some form of fear reaction, self-protection, defensive action, sweating, and increased heartbeat.

  • Nightmares reliving the traumatic experience or associated traumatic experiences.

  • Psychological fright accompanied by the symptoms of physical fright.

  • Displacement—physical or psychological circumstances in everyday life may take on new and frightening, dangerous meanings. Such circumstances might be situations, objects, or even words that in some way remind the PTSD sufferer of the original traumatic event or situation.

 

Avoidance:

 

  • Having recognized that certain things, places, or situations tend to trigger the re-experiencing event, such situations or things are avoided in the hopes of avoiding the re-experience.

  • Because thoughts and feelings can also trigger re-experiencing, the individual tries to avoid certain thoughts and feelings. For instance, if one had been involved in a traffic accident, that person might avoid driving or even riding in a car.

 

Arousal and Reactivity:

 

Arousal” is the psychological awareness of an imminent PSTD re-experiencing event. “Reactivity” refers to the types of reactions one might demonstrate in the re-experiencing event. Typical symptoms are:

 

  • Feeling startled by a triggering stimulus.

  • Feelings of being “on edge” or tense.

  • Insomnia or irregular sleep patterns

  • Outbursts of anger

  • In arousal, one may feel stressed or nervous.

  • Arousal may also affect work performance, concentration, and commonplace daily activities like sleeping or eating.

 

 

Cognition and mood symptoms include:

 

 

PTSD may also affect cognition, which is the process of thinking. Mood is the state of ambient emotions at any particular time. Symptoms in cognition and mood may be:

 

 

  • Memory problems related to the original traumatic event or situation.

  • Patterns of negative thoughts about oneself and/or about other people.

  • Feelings of personal guilt or blame on oneself and/or on other people.

  • A lack or a sense of personal pleasure or enjoyment in activities which, under normal circumstances, would be seen as pleasurable or enjoyable.

  • Feelings of separation and detachment from friends and members of the family.

 

While some of these symptoms are not unusual following varying degrees of traumatic events, in the case of PTSD, they may last for an extended period of time, even years. The short-term form is called “Acute Stress Disorder.” However, if the symptoms last for more than a month and, in varying ways, affect the person's abilities to function normally, PTSD may be the diagnosis. Further, these symptoms should not be due to substance abuse, physical illness, or any other cause beyond a traumatic event. While, for some people, the symptoms of PTSD may onset relatively soon after the traumatic event, for other people, the time before onset might be weeks, months, or even years. PTSD may be accompanied by associated problems, such as depression, substance abuse, or anxiety disorder.

 

Psychological counseling can assist in helping you to ameliorate the adverse psychological and social effects of PTSD through the use of a variety of therapies.

 

Next: More about PTSD risk factors