Are you asking yourself, “Do I have PTSD?” Read on to learn about the top ten signs and symptoms of PTSD.
Many people mistakenly believe that PTSD is something only soldiers and people in war-torn countries face but it’s a condition that affects millions more than the general masses realize.
Nearly 8 million adults in the United States suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder each year. It is more prevalent among first responders and military personnel. More than 12% of Gulf war veterans and between 11-20% of Iraqi Freedom veterans facing the effects of PTSD.
The highest occurrences of post-traumatic stress are among females both in and out of the military and often as a result of sexual assault. Childhood trauma such as abuse is often a cause for PTSD though many go undiagnosed for years or at all.
We have the top ten signs and symptoms of PTSD to help those who ask “Do I have PTSD?” find some clarity.
Keep reading to learn more
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
PTSD is not the same as the daily stress of life. Every life has some stress in it and not all stress is necessarily bad or dysfunctional. Some stress motivates while other stress can be debilitating.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a physical and psychological response to a shocking or traumatic event. It interferes with the ability to function effectively in one or several areas of life.
PTSD can be the result of trauma experienced by an individual, traumatic events they witnessed or from being exposed to the details of traumatic events. First responders repeatedly facing horrific facts from crime scenes or cases of child abuse can develop PTSD.
Someone who has been through a natural disaster or survived acts of violence or a significant shock in their life may be left with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result.
What Are the Symptoms of PTSD?
Everyone reacts to situations in different ways but there are some common symptoms and signs that may indicate someone is suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder.
Intrusive Thoughts and Flashbacks
Post-traumatic stress can produce intrusive thoughts and flashbacks to memories of the event(s) responsible for the trauma. Many describe not being able to close their eyes without visual reminders of what happened to flash through their mind.
Someone with PTSD will often suffer from intrusive thoughts that cause them to feel like they are reliving the trauma. They are unable to control or distract themselves from the thoughts and memories that come in waves.
Overwhelming fear and anxiety are often felt by those suffering from PTSD. Anxiety may be generalized with a feeling of doom or fear of future trauma or be invoked by flashbacks.
Anxiety surrounding going to sleep or trying to cope with day to day activities while trying to deal with the emotions invoked by PTSD are common. Anxiety associated with PTSD is often described as paralyzing or debilitating.
Spontaneous anxiety and panic attacks are often experienced when someone is suffering from PTSD.
Depression and Suicidal Ideation
Depression and suicidal ideation are suffered at a greater incidence in those also suffering from post-traumatic stress. Rates of suicide attempts and death by suicide are elevated among those with PTSD.
More than half of those who deal with post-traumatic stress report having suicidal ideations and the majority deal with depression on some level.
Negative Feelings and Low Self-Esteem
Negative feelings and low self-esteem are common symptoms among those with PTSD as they tend to blame themselves for not being able to move on from the trauma.
There may be feelings of guilt because they believe they are somehow at fault for the trauma or they endure survivors guilt because they survived when others did not.
This can be exasperated by others not understanding the complexity of the disorder and the feeling that they should “get over it”.
Changes in Sleep Habits
Sleep disorders, nightmares, night terrors and insomnia are common for those who suffer from post-traumatic stress.
A fear of going to sleep may be experienced as the individual tries to avoid flashbacks or nightmares. There may also be a feeling of being unprotected and vulnerable when sleeping.
Distrust and Difficulty in Relationships
The ability to participate in healthy relationships is often affected by PTSD. They may be unable to trust others or withdraw from loved ones emotionally and physically.
Physical contact or displays of affection may become particularly difficult especially in those who have endured sexual or physical assaults.
Substance Abuse and Self Medication
As with many psychological disorders, it is not uncommon for those suffering from PTSD to self medicate or have substance abuse issues. This is often an attempt to numb emotions or forget about the trauma endured.
Avoiding any situation, place or person that reminds them in any way of the trauma is a common symptom of PTSD. This can include being unable to drive by the place it happened, not being able to watch the news, inability to interact with people associated with that period of time or even see pictures of them.
Associated smells, sights, and sounds may invoke flashbacks, anxiety or overwhelming sadness and therefore are avoided by the person whenever possible.
Mood swings are often experienced by those with PTSD. Anger, fear, overwhelming sadness may all occur in a short period of time. The individual may go through a wide range of emotions through any given day.
Something that reminds a person of the trauma may invoke unexpected mood swings. Flashbacks and triggers can cause spontaneous rage, anxiety or grief.
Changes in Ability to Function
The majority of people will experience at least one traumatic event in their lives whether it’s the unexpected death of a loved one, a natural disaster or a significant shock. Not everyone develops post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of that trauma.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is the inability to live day to day life without the trauma and resulting symptoms causing significant issues. It is not a sign of weakness or something to be ashamed of it simply means that the person needs help to manage and overcome the effects of the trauma.
Do I Have PTSD? What Do I Do?
If you are wondering “Do I have PTSD?” because some or all of these symptoms apply to you then the best thing you can do for yourself and your loved ones is to seek help.
There are many options available to help with the symptoms of PTSD and to enable you to overcome the trauma you have faced. There is no reason to keep traumatizing yourself each day when help is available.