Signs and Symptoms of PTSD
There are four core signs and symptoms of PTSD, but each individual experiences these differently, in their own unique way.
Reliving the traumatic event over and over again
Unexpected thoughts and memories concerning the traumatic event can happen any time. When this happens it is very frightening and real, just like it is happening all over again. These experiences are referred to as “flashbacks.” Reliving the event and signs and symptoms of PTSD also include having nightmares.
Memories of the traumatic event can occur due to a trigger, which is something reminding you of what happened. It could be a report on the news about a disaster that triggers feelings in someone who survived a hurricane. For combat veterans, hearing a vehicle backfire can cause feelings and memories of being in the midst of gunfire.
Avoidance of things and places that might remind you of the traumatic event
Signs and symptoms of PTSD commonly include avoiding certain places, situations or people that might remind you of the traumatic event. Someone who was viciously assaulted riding the bus may very well avoid taking any public transportation. A combat Veteran may stay away from crowds in shopping malls, as it feels too dangerous being around a lot of people. You may try to stay constantly busy just to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event.
Experiencing more negative feelings and thoughts than before the event
People commonly feel more negative after a traumatic event. You could be simply numb or feeling sad all the time. You may have little or no interest in doing things you used to find enjoyable, like hanging out with friends. The world may feel dangerous to you and you find yourself not trusting anyone. It might be difficult for you to feel anything, especially happiness or anything positive at all.
The signs and symptoms of PTSD often includes feeling shameful or guilty about the event itself. You may dwell on what you think you could have done to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Feeling agitated or on edge
Under these circumstances people commonly feel jittery or agitated and can’t seem to relax. This condition is referred to as “hyperarousal.” This can interfere with concentration or sleep. You can sense danger lurking, always being vigilant and basically on the lookout. You may find yourself irritable and suddenly getting angry if you’re unexpectedly startled or someone surprises you. It’s common to start acting in unhealthy ways, like abusing alcohol and/or drugs, smoking or driving recklessly.
Screening for PTSD
There are times in life when very frightening, terrible and traumatic things happen to people that have a lasting impact. It could be any number of things like being the victim of physical abuse or sexual assault, living through an earthquake, tornado, flood, wartime, seeing someone seriously injured or killed or having a close family member or friend commit suicide or be murdered.
To determine if someone is suffering from PTSD they would be asked the following questions:
Have you ever experienced anything like this?
If you answered “yes,” please answer the following questions. Sometime in the last month, have you:
Had one or more nightmares about the event(s) and/or had thoughts about the event(s) when you didn’t really want to think about it?
Made every effort not to think about the event(s) or avoided people, places or situations by going out of your way so you wouldn’t be reminded of the event(s)?
Found yourself being always on alert and overly watchful, and/or easily startled?
Blamed yourself or others or felt guilty for not preventing or stopping the event(s) or the problems those event(s) caused?
If you said, “yes” to 3 or more of the above questions, you should see a mental health provider to find out about PTSD and how it can be effectively treated. Call us now to schedule an appointment to get started in our intensive outpatient treatment program for PTSD.