signs and symptoms of ptsd

The Many Signs and Symptoms of PTSD

There are several common signs and symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, affects 8 million American adults. That number is much higher if you factor in teens and children who have PTSD and unreported cases. 

In this article, we’re taking a closer look at some of the common signs and symptoms of PTSD.

Signs and Symptoms of PTSD

It’s essential to understand the definition, signs, and symptoms of PTSD because it is a treatable disorder. You do not have to continue experiencing the effects any longer. Help is available. Below is a go-to guide on PTSD. Keep reading to see if you, or someone you know, could benefit from treatment.

Here’s are some of the most common signs and symptoms of PTSD.

PTSD Explained

Everyone experiences a scary, dangerous, and traumatic event at some point in their lives. Also, everyone will react differently to the event. For example, bank robbers hold two tellers at gunpoint. 

After the event, one teller may take some time off, work with a counselor, and return to work feeling confident. The other teller may refuse to take time off but may start having nightmares and flashbacks about the robbery a year later. They may start missing work, cannot sleep, have anger outbursts, and stop participating in enjoyable activities.

The second teller is experiencing PTSD. It does not mean one teller is better than the other. It simply means they cope with trauma in different ways. Traumatic events can come in many forms.

Types of Traumas

Anything that makes you feel extreme fear, that changes or threatens your life unexpectedly, or leaves you with chronic stress after the event can be considered traumatic. You can experience trauma indirectly, too, like witnessing someone else go through a traumatic event, learning about a loved one’s trauma, or repeated exposure to the details of the trauma.

Examples of traumas often include sexual or physical abuse, serious accidents or injuries, assault attacks, unexpected death of a loved one, surviving a natural disaster, bullying, and combat exposure. These are just a few of hundreds of events that can lead to PTSD.

Someone will exhibit specific signs and symptoms if traumatized, which may not show up for months or years.

Symptom Criteria for PTSD

Someone with PTSD will show signs and symptoms in four categories: reexperiencing, avoidance, arousal and reactivity, and cognition and mood. 

Reexperiencing Symptoms refer to a person reliving the trauma due to a trigger. They may have seen an object, bumped into a person, or had a random thought about the experience that caused them to have flashbacks, nightmares, or fearful thoughts.

Avoidance Symptoms describe a person’s behaviors doing whatever they can to avoid a person, place, thing and thought of the trauma. Some may stay away from particular locations, and others may use drugs or alcohol to suppress memories.

Arousal and Reactivity Symptoms are when a person is easily startled, has anger outbursts, seems always to be stressed or on edge, and has sleep disturbances. They may overreact and get worked up in situations that others wouldn’t.

Cognition and Mood Symptoms relate to the brain and thinking. Not remembering parts of the event, feeling guilty even though the trauma was not their fault, or their mood seems to be more depressed as time goes on. A person may even start isolating themselves from social activities.

For children, signs may also include bed-wetting, acting out the event, being clingy with a person who makes them feel safe, and occasionally, some will stop talking.

Again, every person reacts to trauma uniquely. There are risk factors that apply to how someone will respond.

PTSD Risk Factors

Risk factors are adverse events that have happened in your life that influence how you respond to situations in your life. The more risk factors you have, the more likely you will develop PTSD.

Someone who has survived multiple traumatic events, like exposure to abuse for years as a child, is more likely to develop PTSD. Childhood trauma of any kind is a risk factor. Also, being a witness to someone else’s trauma, whether they survived or died.

Other factors include having a mental health or substance use disorder, having little or no social support after the event, and if the event itself created more stress for you. For instance, if you lose your job and lose your car and home because you don’t have money.

The good news is that many factors lead to resiliency that you can learn. They will help you adequately cope and move forward in life.

PTSD Resiliency Factors

If you know someone who easily overcomes obstacles in life, it’s not because they haven’t experienced adverse events. It’s because they have learned how to adapt in the face of adversity. They are resilient. Their traits include:

  • They know how to seek support from friends, family, counselors, teachers, etc.
  • They have developed positive coping skills.
  • They practice self-care and know the importance of staying healthy mentally and physically.
  • They know how to set goals and work towards them, giving them a sense of purpose.
  • They see the benefit of seeking help from trauma specialists.

PTSD Treatment Options

You can start building resiliency factors and overcome the effects of PTSD. Numerous treatment options include trauma-based methods, including eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, neurofeedback, cognitive behavioral therapy, and medications. 

An evaluation with a mental health professional will determine the severity of your symptoms and match them with appropriate treatment.

Here are some examples:

Individualized Intensive Programs are a consideration for someone having suicidal thoughts or who cannot function or take care of daily responsibilities.

Intensive Outpatient and Partial Hospitalization programs are options for someone who can benefit from a minimum of ten hours of therapy a week. You live at home but attend the individual, group, and family therapies at a time convenient for your schedule.

Outpatient Counseling is a one-on-one option where you meet with an individual therapist weekly. Family can get involved in some treatment activities if it will benefit your healing.

If you aren’t sure which level of treatment is best for you or someone you know, that’s okay. Give us a call today, and we can give you more information to help you make the best decision.