Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms

by Andrea M. Darcy
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Perhaps you've read about soldiers having PTSD.

But it's important to know that anyone, not just people who went to war, can end up with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Even children.

What is PTSD?

It's normal to feel shaken after a difficult experience. You might take time off work, or not go out socially, as you struggle to process what you went through. But eventually, after a few weeks or a month, you start to get back to your regular routine.

But for some people, the stressful thing they experience or witness is so overwhelming and beyond their comprehension, and leaves them feeling so helpless, that they don’t bounce back.

Instead, you develop persistent physical and emotional symptoms that make normal daily life a challenge.

Common causes of PTSD

  • working as a soldier or in emergency services
  • experiencing or witnessing violence, assault, or crime
  • being in a serious accident
  • living through a natural disaster, terorism, or war
  • being held hostage
  • struggling with severe illness, or witnessing someone have a severe injury or die
  • a childhood that included sexual abuse, severe neglect, and/or violence.

Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms

PTSD symptoms are often grouped into areas, such as re-experiencing, avoidance and numbing, hyperarousal, thought and mood changes, and ‘other problems’.

'Re-experiencing’ can look like:

  • flashbacks
  • nightmares
  • memories you can’t control
  • fear of going back to the ‘scene of the crime’
  • feeling in danger all of the time
  • having physical reactions of fear around anything that reminds you of the event.

'Hyperarousal' means symptoms such as:

'Avoidance and numbing' involves:

  • not going anywhere that reminds you of the trauma
  • social withdrawal
  • trying to be so busy there is not time to think
  • using alcohol, drugs, overeating, etc to numb thoughts and feelings
  • Using self-harm techniques to numb emotions.

'Thought and mood changes' include:

'Other problems' can include many physical things, such as:

  • muscle tension (jaw, shoulders, neck…)
  • headaches
  • stomach issues
  • dizziness, feeling weak
  • constant colds and flus
  • unexplained aches and pains.

What do I do if I think I have PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder can hold you back in all areas of life. You might find that you struggle in relationships, aren't living up to your potential at work, and feel awkward socially.

And it tends not to go away without treatment. Some people struggle for years, or even all of their adult life, living a half-life of just getting by.

On a good note, there are treatments that can help. Eye-movement desensitisation and reprogramming (EMDR) is a technique therapists use very effectively for PTSD caused by one event. And cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is also shown to help, even in cases of 'complex PTSD', which is post-traumatic stress disorder caused by repetitive trauma such as child abuse.

Want to talk to someone who understands? Use your easy booking tool to find a therapist who deals with PTSD symptoms and start moving towards feeling better.

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