The Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

July 26, 2021

There’s a lot of shame associated with PTSD and it’s not uncommon to hear others telling you to snap out of it, calm yourself down, stop overthinking it, try and forget it and many other unhelpful things.

As we go through the symptoms, remember that you didn’t choose your trauma. If you had it your way, you’d rather have not experienced the pain that you did. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you and the symptoms are a result of what you went through – not who you are.

If you know or suspect someone with PTSD, you ought to learn exactly how the trauma manifests in their behavior so that you can know how to support them.

PTSD has an impact on the overall being; physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual. It shows up in the following ways.

1. Re-experiencing: This feels like going through traumatic events all over again.

You may experience;

  • Flashbacks – sudden and vivid memories of the events. You remember how everything happened; chronologically or in bits and pieces.
  • Intrusive thoughts or images – these could be what was said that was probably threatening or unkind to you. You may also start to believe what was said.
  • Nightmares – you experience the worst dreams which are an index of the trauma. You wake up scared of going back to sleep again.
  • Physical memories like pain, sweating, nausea – You experience the same emotions/feelings you felt when you were going through the trauma like déjà vu.
  • Distress at triggers/reminders of the trauma – you become stressed when something/someone reminds you of your trauma.

2. Hyper-arousal – your body goes into high alert when you think of your trauma even in the absence of impending danger.

Your body is in a state of emergency and survival. You may become;

  • Easily startled – everything scares you even a simple tap on the back. You’re always looking over your shoulder to protect yourself.
  • Easily upset, irritable, or angered – you don’t know how to regulate your emotions and very small things annoy you. Your patience for others also runs out. People may also be afraid to interact with you because your moods are unpredictable.
  • Difficulty sleeping – you can’t quiet your mind enough to sleep. Different scenarios play out in your head when you should be sleeping.
  • Difficulty concentrating – it’s hard to commit to completing a task and you start things without finishing them. You’re also easily distracted.

3. Avoidance – you completely stay off people, places, or situations that remind you of the traumatic event.

This can also mean adopting behavior that makes you feel like you’re escaping the trauma – something that makes you not have to deal with the trauma. You may go through;

  • Abuse of alcohol/drugs – you become hooked to addiction and substance use to an extent that affects your normal functioning – you can’t live without the drugs.
  • Isolation and withdrawal – you keep to yourself a lot and don’t want to interact even with people closest to you. You avoid social functions and hate working in teams or even having to talk to people.
  • Feeling emotionally numb – you feel like you’ve hit a snug. You’ve been on survival mode for so long that you forgot what it’s like to experience feelings like joy.
  • Avoiding reminders of the trauma – you stay off anything that takes you back to the traumatic event. You hate it when people keep asking you about it because that may mean re-living it.
  • Keeping busy – you become a workaholic or so fixated on something that takes your mind away from the trauma. You immerse yourself into your work and focus only on getting it done which may cause you to neglect other areas of your life like family.
  • Memory Problems – you have a hard time remembering the small details and you have to keep getting the information again. You may also forget obvious things like which road to take or what time your meeting is.

4. Other symptoms

  • Depression or anxiety – you experience a deep and growing sadness that makes you feel trapped and alone. The fear of re-traumatization keeps you on edge all the time and you overthink every small thing.
  • Physical symptoms like headaches, dizziness, nervous twitch, sweating, stomach aches – your body is always reacting and you’re hooked on painkillers because there’s always a part of you that’s in pain.
  • Inability to trust anyone – this is especially true with victims of abuse. You think everyone is out to get you or take advantage of you.
  • Overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame – you’ve adopted a cycle of thoughts that make you believe the trauma was your fault. There’s also the shame of what other people will think about what you’ve been through and whether they will believe you.
  • A struggle with speech and language – because parts of your brain have been restructured, you’re not able to communicate properly.

    If you are experiencing a lot of the symptoms above, please reach out to us and we will walk through this journey with you. There’s healing and hope for PTSD. Life doesn’t have to be as hard as it is right now and through treatment and therapy, we can help you overcome and live a normal life.

Lisa de Geneste, LCSW

At Langniappe, we promise you a little extra. Our goal is to assist you in bringing about lasting and positive changes to your life. The word “Langniappe” means a little extra. It is a word that many people who have grown up in the Caribbean or Louisiana know very well.

“Always remember, if you have PTSD, it is not a sign of weakness; rather, it is proof of your strength, because you have survived!”

– Healthy place

We look forward to working with you…