After a stressful and traumatic experience, it’s quite usual to have disturbing flashbacks, feel anxious, stressed and/or depleted and have difficulties sleeping. It may be hard at first to carry out routine everyday tasks, such as going to work, school, or spending time with and paying attention to people you care about. However, after a few weeks or months, the majority of people begin to feel better. If you’ve been experiencing symptoms for more than a few months and things are still not looking brighter, you may have PTSD. PTSD symptoms may appear later in life for some people, or they may come and go over time.
Symptoms of PTSD
There are four distinct diagnostic clusters of PTSD:
- Reliving the event
At any point, unwelcome recollections of the trauma can resurface. They can feel quite real and frightening as if the event is happening again. Those feelings are referred to as flashbacks and usually they are happening because of a trigger. A trigger is something that reminds you of the event and can bring back memories of the trauma. Anything can work as a trigger: smells, sounds, and people are just a few examples.
- Avoiding things that can bring up memories of the event
You might try to avoid situations that bring up memories of the event. Someone who was attacked in the lift, for example, could only use stairs or never share the lift with others. Alternatively, a person who survived a car crash might avoid driving for years as it feels dangerous.
- Feeling generally more negative than you did before the trauma
Feeling sad for no apparent reason or losing interest in things you used to enjoy, feeling numb and emotionless – all could be signs of PTSD. Lack of trust in the world and the people in it could also be another sign. Another feeling that often accompanies PTSD is the feeling of guilt and constant wondering if there was something you could do to prevent the event from happening.
- Feeling on edge
Experiencing extra levels of anxiety and feeling like it is impossible to relax are common for PTSD. Sudden outbursts of anger and irritability are also possible. Those symptoms are called hyperarousal and they often drive those who suffer from PTSD to search for relief in unhealthy ways, such as drugs and alcohol.
The only way to find out whether you suffer from PTSD is to speak to a mental health professional who will talk to you about trauma, symptoms you are experiencing and treatment options available. Even if you don’t have all the above symptoms but have experienced a traumatic or life-changing experience, reach out for help. And remember that all people are different and it is not only abuse, assault and accident that may cause PTSD, for many major life changes such as relocation to another country, loss of a friend who moved or change of job could also be traumatic and cause subsequent PTSD.
If you would like to speak with a counsellor about how we can support you, please contact us.
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