Learn about the signs and symptoms of Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at South Coast Private.
Signs and Symptoms
People with PTSD often experience feelings of panic or extreme fear, similar to the fear they felt during the traumatic event.
If you are suffering from PTSD, you may experience four key difficulties:
Reliving the traumatic event
Unwanted and recurring memories, often in the form of vivid images and nightmares. There may be intense emotional or physical reactions, such as sweating, heart palpitations or panic when reminded of the event.
Being overly alert or wound up
Sleeping difficulties, irritability and lack of concentration, easily startled and constantly on the lookout for signs of danger.
Avoiding reminders of the event
Deliberately avoiding activities, places, people, thoughts or feelings associated with the event because they bring back painful memories.
Feeling emotionally numb
Loss of interest in day-to-day activities, feeling cut off and detached from friends and family, or feeling emotionally flat and numb.
It's not unusual for people with PTSD to experience other mental health problems at the same time. These may have developed directly in response to the traumatic event or have followed the PTSD. These additional problems, most commonly depression, anxiety and alcohol or drug use, are more likely to occur if PTSD has persisted for a long time.
Changes in the thought process following traumatic experiences is common. This includes changes in how you see yourself, others and the world.
Causes of Trauma
Examples of trauma included repeated physical or sexual abuse, emotional abuse or neglect. Unpredictable or frightening family environments may also cause the child to ‘disconnect’ from reality during times of stress.
Traumatic events that occur such events may include war, torture or going through a natural disaster can cause trauma.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms and signs of dissociative disorders depend on the type and severity, but may include:
Feeling disconnected from yourself
Problems with handling intense emotions
Sudden and unexpected shifts in mood – for example, feeling very sad for no reason
Depression or anxiety problems, or both
Feeling as though the world is distorted or not real (called ‘derealisation’)
Memory problems that aren’t linked to physical injury or medical conditions
Other cognitive (thought-related) problems such as concentration problems
Significant memory lapses such as forgetting important personal information
Feeling compelled to behave in a certain way
Identity confusion – for example, behaving in a way that the person would normally find offensive or abhorrent
The effectiveness of treatments for dissociative disorders has not been studied. Treatment options are based on case studies, not research. Generally speaking, treatment may take many years. Options may include:
A safe environment – Doctors will try to get the person to feel safe and relaxed, which is enough to trigger memory recall in some people with dissociative disorders
Psychiatric drugs – such as barbiturates
Hypnosis – may help to recover repressed memories, although this form of treatment for dissociative disorders is considered controversial
Psychotherapy – also known as ‘talk therapy’ or counselling, which is usually needed for the long term. Examples include cognitive therapy and psychoanalysis
Stress management – since stress can trigger symptoms
Treatment for other disorders – typically, a person with a dissociative disorder may have other mental health problems such as depression or anxiety. Treatment may include antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications to try to improve the symptoms of the dissociative disorder.