PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, can occur after a traumatic event. Some of the symptoms may be more widely known. What many people may not know, however, is that still other symptoms can signify PTSD. In fact, surprisingly many things can be signs of PTSD….
Anger and Irritability
Individuals who have suffered trauma can experience hyperarousal. Minor events can trigger the flight or fight response in the brain. Children laughing at a cartoon while watching television may cause a person with PTSD to become irritated and angry, lashing out for seemingly no reason.
Avoiding a Situation that Caused the Event
Often, people with PTSD try to avoid the event that led to the condition. For example, individuals involved in car wrecks where they suffered severe injuries may not be willing to drive or ride in a car. They cut themselves off from transportation, leaving them without access to a job and other places they need to go.
Avoiding Reminders of the Event
After experiencing a trauma, an individual may avoid any person, place, or thing that reminds them of the trauma or that could potentially trigger flashbacks.
Blaming Oneself or Others
It is not unusual for a person with PTSD to blame themselves and others for the traumatic event. For example, if the individual was driving and there was an accident and someone died, the individual may feel responsible for what happened, even if the accident was not their fault. They might also blame others. If other passengers in the car were talking and laughing, the person might blame them for distracting them while driving.
Some people with PTSD experience constant anxiety and hyperarousal, leading to difficulty concentrating and creating challenges at work or school. They may have a hard time keeping a job or maintaining their grades because they constantly think about the event that caused their trauma.
For the person with PTSD, flashbacks can be debilitating. Flashbacks may seem real, putting the person back in the traumatic situation. For instance, a person who survived a tornado might panic at the sound of thunder and seek shelter.
A flashback can be so vivid that it is like reliving a traumatic experience. Someone who experienced an assault may panic at the sound of a voice similar to that of the perpetrator.
When people experience flashbacks, they can act aggressively. Their behavior can also frighten individuals around them, such as young children in their care.
Exaggerated Startle Response
People typically exhibit a startle response to sudden loud noises. If someone shoots off fireworks in a neighborhood other than on Independence Day or New Year’s Eve, the popping noises may startle or frighten neighbors who might confuse it with gunshots. However, those feelings tend to be short-lived. For the person with PTSD, the startle response from hearing fireworks or a car backfiring can cause them to be jumpy or nervous for hours as it reminds them of a traumatic event like being in a war zone.
Hypervigilance means always being on guard for threats. PTSD causes individuals to stay in a state of alertness or hypervigilance. Hypervigilance contributes to insomnia and the inability to relax and enjoy life. Being in a state of constant hypervigilance can be mentally and physically draining, making it the toughest of the symptoms of PTSD.
It may be difficult for a person with PTSD to relax enough to go to bed. Hypervigilance due to trauma can keep the individual from sleeping because they do not know what might happen while they sleep. To calm down before sleeping, they might drink or use drugs, which can worsen the issue because it can lead to a substance use disorder.
Individuals with PTSD often self-isolate because they cannot handle being in social situations. They may fear having a panic episode or reliving a trauma, which could upset their friends. They may feel that their friends and loved ones cannot empathize with what they are going through, so they avoid social situations.
A person with PTSD may be engaged in routine activities, but suddenly they think about a traumatic experience. While riding in a car, they might panic because they remember when they were involved in a serious accident.
Lack of Positive Emotions
People with PTSD can feel sadness, anger, and guilt to the extent that those emotions interfere with the ability to feel anything positive. Even in favorable situations, individuals with PTSD find it challenging to be happy because of fear that the feeling will lead to poor impulse control or the inability to focus on other things. Instead of being happy, they may be bothered by positive environments.
Loss of Interest in Things Once Enjoyed
Socializing, engaging in hobbies, and other activities that formerly brought joy to the individual’s life no longer mean anything. The focus on trauma drains the person with PTSD of energy and motivation, leading to a loss in nterest in activities that were once meaningful.
Memory loss can be the brain’s way of helping an individual deal with traumatic thoughts. Although losing traumatic memories may be seen as a defense mechanism, there is no guarantee that unpleasant memories will not return.
Someone who experiences PTSD may view the world negatively. They may not hold out much hope for the future and express feelings of low self-worth and hopelessness.
Persons dealing with trauma often experience sleep disturbances associated with nightmares. Fear of reliving traumatic experiences through vivid dreams can lead to an individual avoiding sleep.
Some people with PTSD engage in risky behavior such as binge-drinking, abusing drugs, gambling, impulse buying, and unsafe sex to find comfort. Children who have experienced trauma are at higher risk for delinquency and substance use disorder at a younger age.
If you or a loved one has experienced a traumatic event and one or more of these 17 signs of PTSD are interfering with your daily life and function, our team at FHE Health may be able to help. Treatment has helped many individuals get relief from symptoms and experience sometimes dramatic improvements in their quality of life. For more information about the help that’s available, contact us today.