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Raj has been getting nightmares and wakes up all sweaty at night. He starts screaming and shielding himself when he hears loud thuds or noises. He seems very distracted all the time even when he is surrounded by people. All this started happening when he came back from a foreign country, where he was studying, after that country got into a war-like conditions with another country.
He started getting terrified at the sound of firecrackers thinking someone was shooting a gun, he got dreams about bombs blasting around him and people running here and there. His daily life functioning like going out with friends, attending classes etc. started getting disrupted. Finally, his family took him to a psychologist and there they got to know that these could be symptoms of PTSD-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
What Is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder?
Before going further into understanding about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, lets understand about the ‘trauma’ part of the disorder. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), trauma is “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster.” Even so, the incidents are not only limited to the ones stated in the previous statement. So, in trauma an actual threat is present, for example- experiencing or witnessing sexual abuse, a terrible accident, exposure to death etc., which is real and not just an imagination of the person. Now we all are different and unique human beings, that’s why everybody’s reaction and response towards a traumatic event in life will differ from each other. So, depending on a personal psychological capacity, the effects of trauma are faced. There are three types of traumas that one can face-
- Acute trauma: This is faced when a person witnesses a single traumatic event.
- Chronic trauma: This is when a person witnesses continuous and prolonged exposure to traumatic events for example- sexual abuse, bullying etc.
- Complex trauma- This is faced when a person is exposed to multiple traumatic events.
In Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the levels of stress rises abnormally when one remembers, or has flashbacks of the traumatic experience. PTSD has its effects on a person for long-term, which is different from other stress-related conditions.
In sum, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a psychological condition in which a person suffers through utmost distress after experiencing any traumatic event. PTSD was also first named as ‘shell shock’ in World War I when the war veterans started showing the symptoms of it.
What are the Signs of PTSD in people? (70)
As we know, every individual is different. Therefore, every person with PTSD will have different experience with PTSD, even if they have gone through same traumatic experience. For some the signs may not be extremely distressing, for others it may disrupt even a small event of a person’s life. This difference in getting affected by PTSD could be because we all have different levels of tolerance, and in PTSD every person gets affected depending on their level of stress tolerance.
The prominent signs and symptoms of PTSD are-
- Re-experiencing the traumatic event through memories, dreams or flashbacks.
- Being on constant ‘red-alert’ mode (hypervigilance).
- Avoiding remembering the traumatic event.
- Avoiding any situation or behavior that may remind them of the trauma.
- May get into isolation.
- May get frequently aggressive and have anger outbursts.
- Suffers from panic-like symptoms such as increased heartbeats, sweating, feeling numb etc. at the thought of the incident or memory of trauma.
- Having loss of memory, forgetfulness, related to trauma or similar situations like trauma.
- May actively avoid social circumstances.
- May have hard time concentrating or focusing on a task.
- They might actively try to not think about the traumatic events, this may cause distress.
- Can engage in risky or destructive behaviors.
- Loss of interest in activities which they enjoyed before.
- Reduced positive emotions or behaviors.
- Some people may also experience reduced sex drive or sexual dysfunction.
- They may experience co-occurring psychological conditions such as depression and anxiety.
How does PTSD affect you emotionally?
Emotions play the central role in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, after-all trauma is also an emotional response to the dreadful and the surprise causing event. Understanding your emotions is a crucial part which can be highly confusing and agitating in this disorder. What happens is, when someone is showing signs of PTSD, then they experience many unhealthy emotions such as anxiety, frustration, guilt, shame, anger etc. co-occurring at the same time- one leading the another. At such times it becomes very difficult for the person to even understand what they are feeling at the given moment.
These emotions that the person faces are extremely intense. At such times, the person may choose to completely avoid the emotions by choosing some unhealthy coping mechanisms such as participating in some risk-taking behaviour, avoiding to think and feel with the help of alcohol or they may even self-medicate or indulge in self-harm with the aim of finding some sort of release from these unhealthy emotions.
Sometimes, mind itself cannot tolerate the intensity of these emotions and that makes the person forget a few things which are related to trauma or the trauma-causing situations, therefore being forgetful is also one of the signs of PTSD.
Does PTSD change your personality?
Instead of saying personality, let’s talk about identity and behaviour. It is said that a person’s core personality is formed at the age of 18, after that what changes within us is our sense of identity and one’s behaviour. For example, if a person’s core personality is of an outgoing being, but if he/she is faced with trauma and chooses to isolate themselves, then their behaviour will somewhat be similar to an introvert person. But if trauma is healed in a professional way such as psychotherapy, medications, counselling etc. then the chances are that person may start experiencing behaviours related to their core personality.
Similar to changes in behaviour, PTSD can affect one’s sense of their identity. It becomes challenging for someone suffering from PTSD to develop a sense of self. Trauma makes a person question their relationship with themselves and with the world. Some people may identify themselves only in relation to the trauma. For example, a rape survivor who is a daughter, a dancer by hobby and a journalist by profession may identify themselves just as a rape victim or a survivor, forgetting that they have other identities too. Sometimes a person may experience trauma one after other, due to which they might not get a chance to even discover what their true self or identity is.
What does a person with PTSD act like?
Everybody’s experience of trauma is different. The effect of trauma too varies from person to person, hence not everybody with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder will behave in a fixed pattern. But yes, there are a few behavioural aspects that come in one’s act after being affected by PTSD.
One of the common behaviours of people suffering from PTSD can be panic. The constant state of protecting themselves at the thought of trauma causing memories or flashbacks like shielding themselves, trying to catch a breath etc. when they have the flashbacks. They can get jumpy or startled easily. Along with this, they might sit on the edge of their seat as they are hypervigilant most of the times. To avoid nightmares about the trauma, people with PTSD can avoid going to sleep by giving some excuses, which leads to extreme lack of sleep.
People with PTSD can have varied emotions, getting angry and aggressive are some of the behaviours that can come up due to these emotions These angry outbursts can get frequent and ugly.
People with PTSD may ask their closed ones for constant reassurance, as they feel they are unlovable or undeserving and may have meltdowns for the same reason. This can also lead to them asking their closed ones for extra time and attention which can seem a bit controlling.
How does PTSD affect a person socially?
Many a times, people who are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder think that people around them have hard time understanding about their trauma and the distress caused by it, and this can be true at times because of lack of psycho-education. Because of these feelings of misunderstanding and feeling unacknowledged, they may distance themselves from their social peers. This can highly affect their social life and this may also rob them the opportunity of getting proper social support.
Another part that can affect a person suffering from PTSD socially is their anger outbursts. They may have a lot of trust issues because of their trauma and their anger outbursts may come from there, but not everybody in their social circle may understand this. This could lead to alienation or unfriendliness from others over time.
Some symptoms of PTSD are forgetfulness, having hard time to concentrate or focus etc. could make a person most of the days at work or school, which could be perceived as their ineffectiveness. In relationships, along with the person who is suffering from PTSD, their partner may also face a number of stressors, along with caring and bearing with their anger outbursts and insecurities. This could get overwhelming for the partners of the people suffering from PTSD.
Lastly, people suffering from PTSD may themselves withdraw from the social life. This could be because they have feelings of guilt, shame, embarrassment etc. which could be either because of the trauma or because of their behaviours when they remember the trauma.
The signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder start showing within 3 months after experiencing any kind of trauma. And 1 month should pass, after experiencing the traumatizing event, for a psychologist to diagnose it. For some people the distress of the trauma can occur at any time in their life, so it is not compulsory that the distress should take place immediately after the traumatising experience. The signs and symptoms of PTSD are so severe that they interfere with a person’s different aspects of life such as school, work, relationships, social life etc.
PTSD affects a person in all levels- physical, emotional, cognitive and social. PTSD may also have some co-occurring conditions like depression, anxiety. But don’t get worried, the effects of PTSD can be reduced with the help of psychotherapy and other ways of treatment in psychology! Along with the treatment, if the person gets adequate social support, then they can recover in a better way!
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We understand that suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can be very difficult, because we truly understand what the person must have gone through and how intense their trauma might be. But at the same time, a lot of people with same symptoms have sought treatment and have found good success in it.
If there is anybody in your circle, who you think must be suffering from PTSD then help them get proper treatment. Along with that, provide them with emotional support and encouragement, listen to them patiently and try to understand them and provide some positive and healthy distractions to them such as going on a drive, painting or other such activities.
After reading the blog and understanding the signs and symptoms of PTSD, if you feel that you must be suffering from PTSD then know that you are not alone. With precise diagnosis, good assessment and a good treatment you can get accurate help for PTSD. We at WAITT provide counselling sessions for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. If you or anyone in your close or social circle need help for the same, then click on https://www.waitt.in/therapy/ and book your session with our therapist and start your healing journey now!