Five major signs that someone might be suffering from PTSD

Suffering from PTSD - Centres for Health and Healing

PTSD (or post-traumatic stress disorder) is a mental health condition often precipitated by a traumatic event or a series of traumatic events.

Post-traumatic stress disorder can cause a litany of mental and physical symptoms, such as:

  • Flashbacks
  • Hypervigilance
  • Hyperarousal
  • Dissociation
  • Avoidance behaviours.

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Trauma survivors have the highest risk rates for developing PTSD following a traumatic event (or a series of chronic traumatic events).

A traumatic incident may include:

  • The sudden or unexpected death of a loved one
  • Natural disasters
  • Being involved in a car accident or other serious injury
  • Childhood abuse
  • Domestic violence
  • Sexual violation (or physical/ sexual assault)

Traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Traumatic stress disorder - Centres for Health and Healing

Studies show that most adults in the general population have experienced at least one traumatic event during their lifetime, but most do not develop PTSD.

Traumatic events

Moreover, statistics show that only a tiny proportion of those who have experienced trauma will develop PTSD.

However, additional literature illustrates an entirely different reality from the one above; broadly, PTSD symptoms are a lot more prevalent in trauma victims than what has previously been estimated.

Post-traumatic stress disorder facts:

Fortunately, awareness around PTSD is improving with research demonstrating that:

  • PTSD is a lot more common in women than in men
  • PTSD can occur with other mental health disorders (co-occurring disorders), such as anxiety and depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder is not a mental illness that only affects combat veterans; the symptoms of PTSD can impact anyone who has experienced a traumatic event.
  • Substance abuse and substance misuse disorders are widespread conditions for people living with PTSD.
  • The prognosis for PTSD is favourable because of pioneering trauma treatments (such as EMDR and CBT)

Risk rates for PTSD

The prevalence rates of PTSD in America differ depending on the size of the group studied and the demographics.

However, studies show that post-traumatic stress disorder affects approximately 3.5% of the US population in any given year.

PTSD Statistics

Researchers have reported several harrowing statistics around PTSD:

  • Around 8 million US citizens have a diagnosis (or have experienced symptoms) of PTSD in any given year.
  • 1 in 13 people will develop post-traumatic stress disorder in their lifetime
  • 20% of people who experience a traumatic event will go on to develop PTSD
  • 70% of adults experience at least one traumatic event during their lifespan

Five significant signs of PTSD to look out for

Signs and symptoms of PTSD - Centres for Health and Healing

With the above statistics in mind, individuals at risk of developing PTSD must know what signs to look out for to prevent the mental illness from getting worse.

Although there are likely additional symptoms, below are the five significant signs of post-traumatic stress disorder to be aware of:

#1. Hyperarousal

Hyperarousal is when an individual experiences severe psychological and physical discomfort, such as hypersensitivity or alertness.

The individual may become jumpy or on edge, despite evidence of such behaviours being warranted or justified.

Arousal symptoms

According to the National Institute on Mental Health, symptoms of hyperarousal involve:

  • Feeling on edge or constantly tense
  • Feeling profoundly stressed or anxious all the time.
  • Exhibiting angry outbursts for no reason
  • Having sleep problems
  • Being easily startled

Traumatic experience

Such behaviours signify that the person is uncomfortable and unable to relax, which are behaviours often associated with a traumatic event.

The effects of hyperarousal, like fear and discomfort, are associated with PTSD and can present in one or more of these ways.

#2. Flashbacks

Individuals with PTSD are likely to experience flashbacks associated with a traumatic event; such memories are so vivid that it can almost feel as though the person is reliving the event all over again.

Common reactions

Flashbacks may get triggered by certain people, events, objects, sounds, smells, or without any warning at all.

The experience of reliving a traumatic event can cause immense fear, terror, anxiety and confusion for the individual, a similar horror that the person experienced when the event took place.

#3. Dissociation and apathy

People with PTSD often cannot feel anything at all.

Such numbness can have a virulent impact on the individuals’ daily life, as they often feel that they cannot enjoy or get pleasure from the things they once did.

Mood symptoms

Feelings of apathy interfere with daily living, where people often show signs of depression.

Individuals experiencing numbness and apathy cannot seem to move past their trauma, and nothing looks as pleasurable or fulfilling as it once did.

In the above scenario, people often become detained in a cycle of numbness and displeasure, an integral symptom of PTSD.

#4. Intense guilt

Similar to other mental health problems, one of the features of PTSD is guilt.

This is particularly true in cases where someone survives a natural disaster or other shocking event and experiences survivors’ guilt.

Negative thoughts

Such scenarios often play out during natural disasters and serious accidents, where people feel guilty for surviving.

Guilt is also a strong indication of PTSD.

Like many of the symptoms mentioned, guilt can prevent a person from moving on with their life and can invade their day to day living, sucking out any potential joy or happiness.

#5. Substance use/addiction

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), ‘individuals addicted to drugs are up to twice as likely to suffer from mood and anxiety disorders, compared to the general population.’

Anxiety disorder

PTSD is a mental illness under the same umbrella as anxiety disorders, with profound substance abuse being a clear indicator of PTSD.

Destructive behaviours

Numbness is an attractive prospect to those traumatized; therefore, people often seek out substances, such as drugs or alcohol to help minimize or numb the pain entirely.

Other symptoms

According to research, there are additional symptoms of PTSD, such as:

  • Uncontrollable thoughts
  • Selective amnesia
  • Isolation and withdrawal
  • Severe anxiety and depression
  • Intrusive thoughts and memories
  • Suicidal thoughts

Treatment options

Multiple events can lead to specific symptoms associated with PTSD.

Experiencing such symptoms can be incredibly unpleasant and can significantly impact an individual’s life and their ability to move past their trauma.

Fortunately, there are effective trauma treatments to help those experiencing PTSD, such as:

  • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing). EMDR is a psychotherapy treatment that is highly effective for treating PTSD and C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder) and the problems linked to these conditions such as flashbacks, hypervigilance and other symptoms.
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT is a widespread treatment for PTSD and C-PTSD (complex PTSD). CBT focuses on addressing any maladjusted thoughts, perceptions, and behaviours by reframing how people think and perceive challenging life events, thus improving their quality of life.

Other treatment options

Other treatment options for PTSD may include:

Speaking to a mental health professional

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If you think you might be experiencing some of the PTSD symptoms mentioned in this article, you must speak to a mental health professional who can advise you on the best course of action.

Emotional support and guidance are critical factors to getting access to proper treatment and thus managing the symptoms of PTSD.

Please speak to one of our specialist mental health professionals today who can help.

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