PTSD Awareness: Signs & Symptoms

Often when we think of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, we think of war veterans and how the trauma they’ve experienced is difficult to cope with when transitioning back to normal civilization.

While some veterans certainly do experience PTSD, anyone who experiences a traumatic experience could be affected.

PTSD is one of several disorders that can occur after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal involving grave physical harm, death or sexual violence, explained Michelle Sharp, Ph.D., licensed psychologist and coordinator of the PTSD Clinical Team (PCT) at John D. Dingell Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Sharp has given a presentation about living with PTSD to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan employees in Detroit.

She said there are four categories of symptoms – intrusive, avoidance, negative mood and thoughts, and hyperarousal:

  1. Intrusive symptoms of PTSD typically involve a person reliving their traumatic experience somehow. It is important to note that these symptoms are involuntary and cause stress to the individual. For example, distressing nightmares that reflect the traumatic experience.
  2. Avoidance symptoms occur when an individual strives to avoid and minimize all stress that comes when recalling a traumatic event. This is a common tactic used to avoid the pain of the distressing event(s). However, this hinders the ability for a healthy recovery from a trauma.
  3. Negative mood and thoughts often arise in individuals experiencing PTSD. In turn, this can transition into an overall change in typical mood. Anxiety, fear, depression, guilt, anger or shame may be part of these feelings. Ultimately, this can have a strong impact on a person’s relationships with others and satisfaction with life.
  4. Hyperarousal, or nervous system arousal, are symptoms that occur when the body begins preparing itself for a fight-or-flight situation. The smallest triggers may cause an individual who has experienced a trauma to go into this life-or-death survival instinct.

If you or someone you know is interested in raising awareness about PTSD, please visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ website.

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Photo credit: Dyn Photo

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