Signs & Symptoms of PTSD

The manner in which an individual copes with trauma can vary person-to-person. Some people are able to successfully cope with the resulting stress that is known to take place after experiencing a trauma, however, there are some individuals who are unable to manage their distress in a healthy way. After a person experiences, learns about, or witnesses a trauma and experiences a great deal of turmoil as a result, it is likely that that individual is struggling with the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder.

Also known as PTSD, this mental health condition can cause a person to feel as though he or she is re-experiencing the trauma. Furthermore, these individuals tend to go to great lengths to avoid certain people, places, or things reminiscent of the trauma, and may respond with heightened and anxiety-driven responses to even mundane triggers. Sufferers of this illness are known to experience worsening symptoms if treatment is not sought and could develop additional mental health concerns over time. Additionally, individuals grappling with PTSD symptoms are more likely to abuse substances and develop ideations of suicide should this disorder remain present in their lives. If you or a loved one display symptoms synonymous with this condition after experiencing a trauma, it is imperative that mental healthcare is implemented so as to prevent further harm from occurring.

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Statistics

Post-traumatic stress disorder affects an estimated 5 million people in the United States. Among those individuals, more women are believed to meet diagnostic criteria for this disorder when compared to men. However, trauma experts, mental health professionals, and researchers agree that it is likely that more men are currently suffering from PTSD and do not seek treatment for this disorder.

Causes and Risk Factors for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

There are some contributing causes and risk factors that can make an individual more susceptible to developing PTSD after enduring a trauma. Mental health professionals and trauma experts agree on the following notions, of which could explain why some individuals experience the onset of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms and others do not:

Genetic: While the development of posttraumatic stress disorder is not heavily rooted in one’s genetics, researchers do believe that a person’s genes do play a role in the onset of PTSD symptoms. Individuals with a family history of anxiety disorders, for example, have a greater risk for development this illness, as these individuals may respond to trauma more severely than others without such a history. Because of this finding, it can be concluded that genetics can play a role in the onset of posttraumatic stress disorder for some people.

Environmental: Because the onset of PTSD is reliant on experiencing, witnessing, or learning about a trauma in one’s environment, environmental influences play a large role in the development of this mental health condition. Additionally, there is an increased likelihood that an individual will develop this disorder if he or she experiences elevated levels of stress or chaos prior to a traumatic event.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of anxiety disorders
  • Being female
  • Preexisting anxiety disorder or other mental health condition
  • Having an inadequate support system
  • Lack of appropriate and healthy coping skills
  • Exposure to trauma, abuse, neglect, and/or violence
  • Experiencing chronic stress

Signs and Symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Mental health treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder can significantly reduce the presence and impact of symptoms in a person’s life. Separated into three different categories, including re-experiencing, avoidance, and hyper arousal, the following symptoms are those that could be present in an individual that is struggling with PTSD:

Re-experiencing symptoms:

  • Intrusive memories about the trauma
  • Physiological reactions when reminded of the trauma (e.g. sweating, labored breathing, increased heart rate)
  • Recurring nightmares
  • Flashbacks that make an individual feel as if the trauma is happening again

Avoidance symptoms:

  • Feeling hopeless about the future
  • Declined interest in things or activities that were once enjoyed
  • Inability to remember details about the trauma
  • Avoiding people, places, or situation that are reminiscent of the trauma
  • Feeling detached from the world around

Hyperarousal symptoms:

  • Ongoing concerns about impending doom
  • Feeling on edge
  • Experiencing angry outbursts
  • Having an exaggerated startle response
  • Poor concentration
  • Inability to sleep
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Effects of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

The presence of PTSD in a person’s life can cause a great deal of devastation. An individual’s work, family, and social lives are known to be adversely effected. Additionally, a person’s mental and physical health can be negatively affected when symptoms of this condition remain untreated. The listed effects are those that can occur and, conversely, be avoided if appropriate care is sought and implemented:

  • Loss of employment
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Impaired occupational functioning
  • Development of another mental health condition
  • Family discord
  • Decline in quality and quantity of interpersonal relationships
  • Chronic pain
  • Development of a substance abuse problem
  • Suicidal ideations
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Suicide attempts

Co-Occurring Disorders

Many sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder grapple with the symptoms of another mental health condition at the same time. For some, PTSD symptoms can trigger the onset of another mental illness, while other individuals suffer from a mental health condition prior to a trauma and sequentially experience more intense symptoms of their preexisting mental illness or illnesses following the trauma. Below are the mental health conditions that commonly co-occur in those suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder:

  • Panic disorder
  • Substance use disorders
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Specific phobias
  • Depressive disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
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