PTSD is an after effect of either experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. After a traumatic event or a loss, some of us will recover after an initial shock. Some of us may have some lingering after effects. PTSD is a term given if certain diagnostic criteria is met.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
There are 4 types of PTSD symptoms, but they may not be exactly the same for everyone. Each person experiences symptoms in their own way.
Reliving the event
Unwelcome memories about the trauma can come up at any time. They can feel very real and scary, as if the event is happening again. This is called a flashback or intrusive memories. You may also have nightmares. Memories of the trauma can happen because of a trigger — something that reminds you of the event. For example, seeing a news report about a disaster may trigger someone who lived through a hurricane. Or hearing a car backfire might bring back memories of gunfire for a soldier returning from a war.
Therapies such as Exposure Therapy, EMDR or CBT may help you with identifying the triggers and softening their effect on you. Breathing exercises etc can help one stay grounded in the present and avoid a panic attack.
Avoiding things that remind you of the event
You may try to avoid certain people or situations that remind you of the event. For example, someone who was assaulted on the bus might avoid taking public transportation. Or a combat Veteran may avoid crowded places like shopping malls because it feels dangerous to be around so many people. You may also try to stay busy all the time so you don’t have to talk or think about the event.
Having more negative thoughts and feelings than before
You may feel more negative than you did before the trauma. You might be sad or numb — and lose interest in things you used to enjoy, like spending time with friends. You may feel that the world is dangerous and you can’t trust anyone. It may be hard for you to feel or express happiness, or other positive emotions. You might also feel guilt or shame about the traumatic event itself. For example, you may wish you had done more to keep it from happening.
You can read more about the negative bias of our brain and the neurobiology of trauma in this website. This will help understand how to counter rumination and imagining the worst outcomes.
Feeling on edge
It’s common to feel jittery or “keyed up” — like it’s hard to relax. This is called hyper-arousal. You might have trouble sleeping or concentrating, or feel like you’re always on the lookout for danger. You may suddenly get angry and irritable — and if someone surprises you, you might startle easily. You may also act in unhealthy ways, like smoking, abusing drugs and alcohol, or driving aggressively.
This is a result of our nervous system being overwhelmed by the traumatic event. Mind body therapies such as yoga, breathing, music and dance therapies can help us restore the balance to our nervous system.
This article is primarily sourced from Veterans Affairs of the US government, a leading PTSD research and treatment organisation.