How to Identify Symptoms of PTSD


Although we often relate the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, to war veterans, and it is an overwhelming issue for veterans, others can also be diagnosed with this disorder, which can stem from any traumatic event. Signs and symptoms of this difficult condition can be recognized by friends and family members, however, and some of the patterns follow. See a psychiatrist or mental health professional for evaluation and diagnosis.

Learn or suspect whether or not the individual may have experienced or undergone some traumatic event. This may be personal and abusive. Months or years may pass before symptoms manifest.

Find out whether the person suffers nightmares, flashbacks, extreme distress when reminded of the event--or physical responses such as increased heart rate or sweating, in connection with the event.

Observe for a range of symptoms. Some sufferers appear highly emotionally reactive or disregulated, meaning that they have no control over their emotional response. This can look like angry outbursts.

Realize that avoidance symptoms may occur. She may have difficulty remembering the event and avoid thoughts or people connected to the trauma. Loss of interest in positive activities or a distant stance are other signs.Others manifest as quiet or completely withdrawn. These symptoms may resemble severe depression. The individual seems wooden and removed--basically numb.

Look for signs of hypervigilance or hyperarousal. Fearful and ever-watchful, the PTSD sufferer cannot "turn" this feeling "off." A war veteran may find himself fearful of crowds or panicked unless his back is against a solid surface. He becomes permanently hypervigilant after being subjected to this hypervigilance continuously during wartime. He may be suspicious of open spaces that make him feel vulnerable. This feeling of being guarded or jumpy is sometimes referred to as hyperarousal.

Understand that triggers vary for different people. A rape or abuse victim may react differently to trauma suffered than a former soldier, but this is still categorized as PTSD.

Tips & Warnings

  • There are triggers which set off emotional reactions. For example, an incident that occurred in a public restroom could trigger trauma for a victim who later enters any public restroom. Anything, no matter how seemingly small or trivial, can serve as a trigger related to an abusive or traumatic event that the sufferer directly connects to this abuse or trauma. The mind and body react, but he may not be able to express or explain this directly.

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