The symptoms of PTSD surface after the event has ended, sometimes as long
as several years later. A person suffering from PTSD often experiences the
|Flashback - Reliving the
event with all its painful memories and emotions. When this occurs,
the person’s attention is completely diverted from the present
reality and their surroundings.
|“Unreal” Reality - A
state of mind like sleepwalking in which the person behaves as if
they are actually experiencing the event again. The person is not
completely aware of what he is doing. It is like he is in a dream
state. (He may, though, be aware of this state.) For example: A war
veteran who hears a jackhammer pounding pavement may think he is
“under enemy fire.” He becomes fearful, trying to find somewhere to
|Nightmares - Reliving
the traumatic experience in one’s sleep, usually waking up in a
terrified state screaming.
|Insomnia - Becoming
afraid to go to sleep if he has nightmares.
|Sudden Outbursts of Emotion
- Having repeated outbursts of emotions through tears, anger,
violent outbursts, extreme fear and/or panic attacks.
|Detachment from Others -
Shying away from close emotional relationships with friends, family
and/or co-workers. This usually follows a period in which the victim
feels emotionally “numb” with few emotional responses and is only
able to do routine, mechanical things.
|Guilt - Experiencing
guilt if friends or family did not make it through the event. This
is often called “Survivors Guilt.”
|Avoids Situations -
Avoiding situations that remind them of the traumatic event. For
example, a rape victim will avoid sexual contact with a partner, a
riot victim may avoid noisy crowds.
|Abuses Alcohol/Drugs -
Using alcohol and/or drugs to block out their emotions and help them
forget the pain of the experience.
|Avoids Responsibility -
Persons with PTSD, especially those who have witnessed the loss of
human life, may feel they failed to protect someone from being
killed. As a result, they may experience trouble on their jobs and
trouble expressing loving emotions to friends and family.
|Poor Concentration -
Trouble remembering recent events or staying focused in thought.
|Depression - Finding it
difficult to work out their guilt and grief resulting from the loss
of loved ones and/or loss of security. They may also be unable to
feel like they are “back in the real world.”
Posttraumatic stress disorder, in most cases, should be treated by a
mental health professional, i.e., a psychiatrist, psychologist, social
worker or counselor. Treatment can usually be done on an outpatient basis.
However, if you have become a threat to yourself or others, you may need to
be hospitalized for treatment. Treatment will help you:
|Discuss the event and the pain it has
|Resolve your feelings of grief which
you may find hard to express
Types of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Therapies
|Individual Therapy - This allows you
to look at the things you value in life and how your behavior and
experience during the event(s) may have violated or upset your
values. You will work on:
- Resolving conscious/unconscious conflicts
- Rebuilding your self-esteem and self-control
- Developing self-responsibility
|Family Therapy - Your partner,
children, siblings and/or parents may need to be included in your
therapy because of your behavior toward them. This helps:
- Allow family members to cope with their emotions
- Foster good communication within the family
- Strengthen parenting roles, if appropriate
|Self-Help or Peer Counseling Groups -
You may join “survivor’s” groups who share their experiences and
reactions with each other. This helps to show that:
- You are not alone in your feelings
- Others may have reacted in the same way
- Your feelings/emotions are normal and common to the
Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).
|Medication, such as anti-anxiety
drugs, may be used in conjunction with the above therapies.
Have you been exposed to a traumatic event and were both of
the following present?
- The event(s) involved actual or threatened death or
serious harm to someone. This could have been personally
experienced or just witnessed.
- Your response included intense fear, helplessness, or
Do you keep on re-experiencing the traumatic event in one or
more of the following ways?
- Images or thoughts of the event recur and cause you
- Repeated dreams of the event cause you distress.
- Flashbacks, illusions, or acting out the event occurs as
if it were happening again.
- Intense emotional distress occurs when you see or think
of things that resemble any part of the traumatic event.
- Physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomachaches, etc.
occur when you see, hear, or think of things that resemble
any part of the traumatic event.
Do you avoid anything that reminds you of the traumatic event
and feel a “numbness” to daily life events as indicated by three
or more of the following?
- Avoid thinking or talking about the trauma and/or
disregard your feelings about it
- Avoid activities, places or people that remind you of
- Can’t remember an important aspect of the trauma
- Have a noticeable lack of interest or participation in
activities that are meaningful
- Feel detached from others
- Unable to have loving feelings
- Don’t expect to have much of a future or a normal life
Are you more “jumpy” now compared to before the traumatic
event as indicated by two or more of the following?
- A hard time falling or staying asleep
- Outbursts of anger or irritability
- A hard time concentrating
- Always on the look-out to protect yourself from being
- Exaggerated startle response
If you have answered NO to all of the questions,
you probably do not have posttraumatic stress disorder. If you
are not sure, though, see a counselor for a professional