How to know if you have PTSD
Like virtually every other mental health illness out there, PTSD will look different with every single person. However, there are hallmark symptoms that point to you having PTSD. Let me caution you now though, although you might recognize yourself in this article, please try not to diagnose yourself. It takes the skills of an experienced professional to do that. With that in mind, if this article leads you to believe that you might have PTSD, please follow up with a professional. The earlier it is treated, the more complete your recovery will be.
A Traumatic Event
The most important thing in diagnosing PTSD is that you must have undergone trauma. This can be an experience that you have personally gone through, a series of traumatic events that you experienced, or even something that you’ve witnessed. A traumatic event can be any number of things either natural or man-made, but for it to be considered traumatic, the event must give the person a sense of horror, helplessness, cause serious injury, or have a serious threat of injury or death.
In addition to having experienced a traumatic event, there are a number of different symptoms that are associated with PTSD. The following is a list of some of the common signs and symptoms of PTSD.
1. Recurrent, distressing memories, nightmares, and/or flashbacks. Flashbacks are intense memories of the trauma which is so intense that it often feels as if you are reliving the event.
2. Avoidance of memories, thoughts, and feelings surrounding the traumatic event.
3. Avoidance of external reminders of the trauma including people, places, anniversary dates, smells, colors, sounds, time of the day, etc. This can be anything really that serves as a reminder of the trauma.
4. Difficulty remembering the details of the traumatic event or remembering the details incorrectly.
5. Impaired concentration.
6. Exaggerated negative beliefs about the event, yourself, or the world at large. Examples of this would be believing “I am a horrible person”, “the world is a bad place”, “all people are out to hurt me”, “nobody will ever love me” and things of this nature.
7. Feeling detached emotionally or estranged from others. With emotional detachment, you are disconnected from the feelings of others and might note that you are having problems forming relationships, sharing your emotions, or that others say you look bored or uninterested when they’re talking about topics that are important to them.
8. Persistent negative emotions such as depression, pessimism, anxiety, fear, anger, guilt or shame.
9. Increased arousal including insomnia, irritable mood, anger outbursts, being hypervigilant, or having an exaggerated startle response.
10. Engaging in destructive or impulsive behavior
Usually, people will notice symptoms starting immediately after the initial traumatic event or at least within a short period of time. For others, however, the symptoms might take months or even years to begin. If you do have PTSD, the symptoms will not self-resolve without treatment. In fact, Untreated PTSD may lead to chronic problems such as chronic pain, substance abuse, sleep problems, a pattern of unstable relationships, and depression. In severe cases, the person’s depression may lead to suicidal thoughts and feelings.
What to Do
If you are experiencing these symptoms for longer than a month, it is probably best if you seek out professional help as soon as possible. If you’re feeling suicidal, you should immediately seek treatment from a professional. As stated above, the longer you aren’t treated, the worse your symptoms will become. You also will have a decreased response to treatment, meaning that treatment won’t work as well.
If you or someone you know is experiencing the symptoms above, I would love to talk with you about receiving trauma treatment at this link.