Post Traumatic Stress Disorder:
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD)
~stressed~ is just ~desserts~ spelled
This is the second in our series of spotlights on particular mental health problems and aims as well as displaying the standard information on signs and symptoms treatments etc, and provide a signpost to further information and where to recieve help. In addition to include articles providing all the latest news regardining PTSD . We are particularly interested in any experiences you or your members would like to share or if you or they would like to contribute maybe with an interview or podcast please contact MHNE.
MHNE would like to thank Kevin Meares (Clinical Psychologist Newcastle Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Centre) for his invaluable contribution to these pages
A feature of these pages will be a running blog (Musings of a Most Peculiar Man) charting one service users journey through therapy
After a traumatic experience, it’s normal to feel frightened, sad, anxious, and disconnected. Usually, with time, the upset fades and you start to enjoy life again. But sometimes the trauma is so overwhelming that you find that you can’t move on. You feel stuck with a constant sense of danger and painful memories that don’t fade. If you went through a traumatic experience and are having trouble getting back to your regular life, reconnecting to others, and feeling safe again, you may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Signs and Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Signs and Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can arise suddenly, gradually, or come and go over time. Sometimes symptoms appear seemingly out of the blue. At other times, they are triggered by something that reminds you of the original traumatic event, such as a noise, an image, certain words, or a smell.
While everyone experiences PTSD differently, there are three main types of symptoms:
Re-experiencing the traumatic event
Avoiding reminders of the trauma
Increased anxiety and emotional arousal
Symptoms of PTSD: Re-experiencing the traumatic event
- Intrusive, upsetting memories of the event
- Flashbacks (acting or feeling like the event is happening again)
- Nightmares (either of the event or of other frightening things)
- Feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma
- Intense physical reactions to reminders of the event (e.g. pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating)
Symptoms of PTSD: Avoidance and numbing
- Avoiding activities, places, thoughts, or feelings that remind you of the trauma
- Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma
- Loss of interest in activities and life in general
- Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb
- Sense of a limited future (you don’t expect to live a normal life span, get married, have a career)
Symptoms of PTSD: Increased anxiety and emotional arousal
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Irritability or outbursts of anger
- Difficulty concentrating
- Hypervigilance (on constant “red alert”)
- Feeling jumpy and easily startled
Other Common Symptoms of PTSD: Dissociation
In its most common and mild form dissociation includes day dreaming, 'zoning out,' , being in a daze, or doing things on 'autopilot.' For example, when driving a car and not recalling the journey /how you got from “A to B”. Most people will experience dissociation from time to time. Dissociation can be more common following a trauma and it can become problematic when it happens more frequently than we would like or when we feel psychological disconnected from the people or world around us. Some people argue that dissociation is our mind’s ‘fail safe’ mechanisms and when things gets too much for us our mind simply ‘tunes out’. Some people how have experienced trauma can feel this way for many hours a day and lose touch with their surroundings.
Symptoms of PTSD: Rumination
Have you ever been stressed all day because you can’t stop thinking of something unfair that happened that morning? Or the previous week? This human tendency to obsess, trying to work things out in one's mind, is common. When these thoughts turn more negative and brooding, that's known as rumination. Often we have a single question that we ask over and over again, such as why? Or, if only.
- Rumination can sometimes be helpful for instance reflecting on a problem can lead you to a solution. Also, reflecting on certain events can help you process strong emotions associated with the issue. However, rumination in general, and brooding in particular, tend to generate negative moods such as anger or sadness and sometimes these just stop us from actually doing something positive for ourselves. If you find yourself constantly replaying something in your mind and dwelling on the injustice of it all, thinking about what you should have said or done, without taking any corresponding action, you’re likely making yourself feel more stressed. And you are also likely experiencing some of the negative effects of rumination.
studies show that rumination can raise your cortisol levels, signifying a physical response to stress resulting from rumination.
- Negative Frame of Mind
Not surprisingly, rumination is said to have a negative effect, or produce more depressed, unhappy mood. Not only is this unpleasant in itself, but from what we know about optimism and pessimism, this brings a whole new set of consequences.
- It stops us in our tracks
While people may get into a ruminating frame of mind with the intention of working through the problem and finding a solution, research has shown that excessive rumination is associated with less proactive behavior, higher disengagement from problems, and an even more negative state of mind as a result. That means that rumination can contribute to a downward spiral of negativity.
- Self Sabotage
Research has linked rumination with negative coping behaviors, like binge eating. Self-sabotaging types of coping behavior can create more stress, perpetuating a negative and destructive cycle.
A link has also been found between rumination and hypertension. Rumination may prolong the stress response, which increases the negative impact of stress on the heart. Because of the health risks involved in hypertension, it’s particularly important to combat rumination and find healthy strategies for dealing with stress and staying centered
Symptoms of PTSD: Identity
PTSD can change the way you see yourself. Almost overnight it can seem like your whole identity has changed, or you may feel as if you have become someone you no longer recognise. In the aftermath of trauma, this is a very common experience. The world as you knew it may have radically altered; of course, this could radically alter you, too, for a period of time. If you change, then often the people around you change in response and different and often unhelpful patterns of relating to others may establish over time.
The topic of identity is important in PTSD recovery, and is not one that’s often discussed outside of the therapy room. Some things to consider when dealing with this aspect of PTSD can be simply summarised as follows
- Who was I before the trauma?
- What were my roles and responsibilities?
- For example, being a son, father, daughter, grandparent, etc.
- What did my work involved? What did I spend time doing?
- What did I do for others or what did others do for me?
- What things at home did I manage and deal with before, what do I manage and deal with now?
- What where my likes /dislikes? What are they now?
- What was it that made me who I am
- Which parts of me are still here despite everything that has happened?
- What could I do to reclaim more of myself? Remember that even a tiny step is a step in the right direction.
There is obviously a lot more to this topic of identity and PTSD, but it is important for you to realize that while it feel like your whole sense of who you are has come to a halt, there will be threads of identity that have continued. The questions above are designed to help you to think this through for yourself. These questions may of course be best asked within a therapy setting to help you thinks things through.
Other common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)