Now that you have more insight into its origins, time to examine the four main symptoms, some of which goes beyond what you already know. PTSD may not look the same in every person, and not all people will experience the same severity of symptoms. However, all people with PTSD will exhibit four main symptoms.
- Re-Experiencing, or Intrusion
- Hyperarousal or “on edge”
- Negative Cognitions and Mood Symptoms (Feeling worse about yourself or the world)
Most will experience one or two of these symptoms, but people with PTSD will suffer from all of them to some degree. Symptoms usually appear within 6 months of the trauma, though at times they might begin manifesting at a later time. According to the DSM-5, in order to be diagnosed with PTSD, symptoms must last longer than 1 month. Symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with daily life, and must not be related to other factors such as medication, substance abuse, or illness. That isn’t to say that people experiencing PTSD may not also struggle with things like substance abuse, but that it isn’t the initial source of it.
Re-Experiencing, or Intrusion
One of the tale-tell signs of PTSD. The person is involuntarily reliving the traumatic event that triggered their PTSD. This intrusion of thought may manifest in a variety of ways including:
- Recurring memories
- Distressing thoughts
- Becoming stressed in physical ways like sweating or heart palpitations
Re-experiencing can be triggered by anything that reminds someone of the event such as words, locations, objects, people, or similar situations. Of the intrusion symptoms, flashbacks are often the most troubling. A person who has a flashback feels like they’re actually re-experiencing the traumatic event in real time. Dr. Matthew Tull, a professor of Psychology writes: “researchers have found that most often, a flashback centers on the “Warning! Watch out!” moment when, at the time the trauma occurred, the person first felt the threat of danger. This helps to explain why people having flashbacks may take sudden and strong defensive actions, sometimes causing harm to themselves or others—they’re feeling seriously threatened right now”
A person who experiences a traumatic event may find themselves wanting to avoid things that remind them of the event. They may also become afraid of doing something or going somewhere similar to the original traumatic event. For instance, someone who has been in a serious car accident may avoid driving or may be afraid to drive in certain circumstances such as heavy traffic or snowy roads. Someone who has been sexually abused may avoid intimacy in the future.
Other symptoms of avoidance include:
- Avoidance of talking about or having conversations that remind a person of the traumatic event
- Attempt to avoid close relationships with people that may lead to detachment or estrangement
- Lack of interest in social events or activities
- Self-medicating with drugs, alcohol, or risky behavior
Have you learned anything new about PTSD by the symptoms indicated above? Sound off below. Part two is next!
To Your Success,