Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop in the aftermath of a traumatic experience. Its effects can be debilitating and manifest in various ways. Though everyone’s experience with PTSD is unique, there are 17 key symptoms that are commonly recognised in the medical community.
Reliving the traumatic experience
- Flashbacks. This involves reliving the traumatic event as if it’s happening in real-time.
- Nightmares. Disturbing dreams related to the trauma can haunt sufferers.
- Intrusive memories. Even during waking hours, unwelcome thoughts about the trauma can invade your mind.
- Avoiding reminders. Sufferers go out of their way to avoid people, places, or situations that are reminders of the trauma.
- Emotional numbing. There’s a marked reduction in interest in activities that were once pleasurable.
- Feeling detached. An emotional or social detachment from others is commonly reported.
Changes in thinking and mood
- Negative outlook. A persistently negative mood and outlook on life develop.
- Distorted blame. Sufferers may blame themselves or others disproportionately for the traumatic event.
- Reduced emotional range. There may be a restricted range of feelings, where you find it difficult to feel positive emotions like happiness or love.
- Feelings of estrangement. This involves a feeling of being alienated or estranged from others.
- Irritability. There’s a low tolerance level for frustration and irritability is common.
- Angry outbursts. This may involve frequent, unprovoked fits of anger.
- Overreacting. A tendency to be easily startled or scared.
- Concentration problems: Difficulty in focusing or paying attention to tasks.
- Insomnia. Difficulties falling or staying asleep are a common symptom.
- Risky or destructive behaviour. Engaging in hazardous activities without considering the consequences.
- Physical symptoms. Such as headaches, dizziness, chest pains, and stomach issues, may accompany PTSD symptoms.
When to seek help
It is crucial to consult with a healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment if you or a loved one is experiencing these symptoms. Early intervention can help manage the condition and improve the quality of life.
Medical professionals have the expertise to properly diagnose and treat various conditions, helping to ensure the best possible outcome for the patient. Waiting too long to seek medical advice can sometimes exacerbate the issue and lead to more complicated treatments down the line.
Effective treatments for PTSD typically involve medication and psychotherapy, often in combination. cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR), and medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are common forms of treatment.
It’s important to recognise that treatment for PTSD is often multifaceted, incorporating both medication and various forms of therapy to provide the most comprehensive care. Each patient’s needs are unique, and a healthcare provider can help tailor a treatment plan that best addresses the individual symptoms and challenges. Adherence to the prescribed treatment plan and ongoing consultation with healthcare providers can significantly improve the prognosis for those suffering from PTSD.
Recognising the 17 symptoms of PTSD is the first step in seeking appropriate treatment and support. While the experience of PTSD varies from person to person, these symptoms serve as a guide for understanding the complexity of this condition. With the right help and support, it is entirely possible to manage these symptoms and lead a fulfilling life.
Sarah Williams is a mental health advocate and freelance writer, focusing on issues related to psychology and mental well-being.