4 Signs You Have PTSD and What To Do About It
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition that is triggered by a terrifying event, a natural response to protect you from perceived danger. It’s your mind and your body trying to make sense of what it experienced. PTSD can impact not only emotional health, but your physical activities and health as well.
Unfortunately, many people who suffer from PTSD never even realize they have it. Long associated only with soldiers and first responders, PTSD is also commonly present in those who have experienced other types of trauma, including betrayal/infidelity, bullying, abuse (physical, emotional, sexual), the loss of a child or spouse, car accidents, disasters, and other events involving violence.
According to the National Center for PTSD, an estimated 20% of us will experience PTSD at some point in our lifetime. In fact, studies show one in every two women and one in every five men will develop some form of PTSD by age 75. In my therapy practice, I regularly see clients with PTSD resulting from infidelity discovery, the loss of a loved one, abuse or other devastating events.
As June is PTSD Awareness month, I wanted to share four signs to help you identify if you may be struggling with PTSD.
Signs of PTSD
1. Repeated, frequent, intrusive, involuntary thoughts about a traumatic event or situation
This could be
- “I can’t get the image out of my head”
- “What if …… happens again?”
- “I panic when I see my husband texting on his phone”
- “I can’t stop thinking about ……”
You may struggle to sleep because you’re obsessing over the past. You may not be able to concentrate at work. You may struggle with nightmares, flashbacks or distressing dreams where you relive the same or similar trauma.
2. Avoidance of reminders of the trauma
If you find yourself trying to avoid thinking of a painful event or trying to avoid people, places, or things that remind you of the painful event, you may be experiencing a symptom of PTSD.
For example, I once had a client who couldn’t even drive by a certain chain of hotels without feeling panicked because it brought up feelings of betrayal related to her spouse’s previous infidelity. As a result she would plan her travel to avoid these locations so as to avoid the strong negative feelings she had attached to them.
While it’s natural to feel overwhelmed or scared by painful memories, or to feel the memories are too painful to think or talk about, avoidance is not a healthy way to cope. In fact, avoidance will often enhance the feelings of fear and panic associated with the event.
3. Numbing your reaction to the trauma
Emotional numbing is the process of shutting down or shutting out feelings and emotions related to the painful event. It can seem as if you’re ‘going through the emotions’ when engaged in any activity. The difference is the activity is void of the typical emotions associated with it. Some with PTSD try to numb out the feelings associated with their wounding, and use it as a strategy to protect themselves from further emotional, or even physical, pain.
The vast majority of people will use things in their life to help ‘deal’ with the overwhelming feelings associated with PTSD. Here are a few examples I’ve seen over the years: alcohol, marijuana, recreational drugs, prescription drugs, pornography, food, gambling, video gaming, shopping, etc. Individuals will use these substances or activities as their way of avoiding the intensity of their feelings. Think of it as ‘escaping’ from the pain. The unfortunate truth is this can easily lend itself towards an addiction issue.
Though it might provide temporary relief, numbing can have long-lasting negative consequences by delaying or prohibiting true healing.
4. Changes in mood, thoughts, behavior & physical health
People who suffer from PTSD can experience a wide range of symptoms that can leave them isolated and disconnected from others around them: These include:
- Depression & anxiety
- Increased drinking and drug use
- Anger and irritability; aggressive outbursts
- Recklessness or risky behavior
- Chronic pain, heart problems, high blood pressure
- Constantly on edge – feelings of jitteriness, anxiousness
- Problems at work or school – difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty forming relationships
- Negative attitudes toward themselves, others, and the world around them.
If you see yourself in these common symptoms and think you may be suffering from PTSD, the first thing you need to know is that PTSD doesn’t have to be a life-long sentence. There is help available.
In fact, there are proven, science-based therapies that can alleviate your symptoms and give you back your life. At Breaking Free Solutions we have skilled therapists trained in multiple modalities who can often help you significantly reduce your symptoms in as few as one or two sessions.
If you are ready to take your first step towards healing, give us a call.