We live in turbulent times. With so many of our men and women overseas in conflict-ridden countries, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has become a subject of headlines. But PTSD doesn’t just manifest amid veterans of foreign wars. About eight percent of Americans will experience PTSD in their lifetime, and women are twice as susceptible as men.
Whether you’re experiencing distressing and unexpected symptoms yourself, or whether a loved one is behaving out of character, knowing the three major symptoms will help you identify the disorder and get help fast.
Re-experiencing The Trauma
One of the major symptoms of PTSD involves continuing to relive the trauma in an emotional and intrusive way at least a month (but usually much longer) after the traumatic event. This symptom can manifest in several ways:
- Recurrent, vivid dreams or nightmares
- Sudden flashbacks triggered by visual, auditory, or other sensory cues
- Physiological reactions that coincide with the memories, flashbacks, or dreams such as elevated heart rate, sweating, etc.
- Repetitive play (in children) that may involve reenacting or restaging with toys the upsetting events
Physical And Emotional Isolation
PTSD sufferers often go out of their way to avoid places, events or people that may trigger memories and flashbacks of the event. This behavior can lead to physical and emotional isolation. They may also repress certain parts of the event, refuse to talk about it, or cycle in crushing waves of guilt, shame and/or blame. The weight of these emotions may strain their ability to participate in happy events or even muster any positive feelings.
PTSD sufferers are often on edge. They may exhibit an extreme startle response or become overly vigilant and protective, to the point where they don’t sleep well. Insomnia is not uncommon, as is swift anger and irritability. Many PTSD sufferers resort to substance abuse and self-destructive behaviors in an effort to numb their pain.
If you suspect that you or a loved one may be suffering from PTSD, contact a mental health professional as soon as possible to get the help you need.