After exposure to an extremely traumatic experience, some individuals re-experience the traumatic event in recollections, flashbacks, nightmares or after encountering reminders of the event. They may also develop emotional numbing and avoid situations that trigger unpleasant memories. Despite emotional numbing, many individuals with PTSD also have increased arousal or alertness.

Re-experiencing the traumatic event.

Most of us remember events, both positive and negative, from our past. Those who suffer PTSD have unwanted, intrusive and distressing recollections of the traumatic event. These range from mildly disturbing memories to flashbacks in which it feels as though the traumatic event is occurring again while the person is awake, or nightmares in which frightening fragments or the entire traumatic event are replayed in dreams.

Emotional numbing and avoidance.

Given the unpleasant nature of re-experiencing a traumatic event, there is a certain logic to numbing and avoidance. Unfortunately, the numbing often spreads to involve many important and previously enjoyable activities in addition to those associated with the trauma. Sufferers often describe having a more restricted range of emotions with fewer highs and lows and feelings of detachment from others, including those with whom they had been close before PTSD began. Avoidance may be seen as the ultimate form of numbing.

Increased arousal.

Those who have experienced trauma often describe a loss of innocence and trust in their safety and surroundings. They become hypervigilant, watching for danger and often have an exaggerated startle reaction to stimuli that most individuals would hardly notice. Because of increased arousal, individuals with PTSD often have difficulty concentrating and falling or staying asleep and may display irritability because they are always on edge.

One thought on “What are the symptoms of PTSD?

  1. Saint Udio

    Re-experience also occurs in the form of sub-consciously projecting the memories onto daily situations accompanied by the hypervigilance so that each new day brings with it a sense of panic, and one does not know why. This can take decades to process and begin to understand, especially if the crime was committed against one as a child or teenager.

    The numbness also brings with it a seething anger that rolls around just beneath the surface. It shows up particularly around people who want to ‘fix’ you or have the expectation that one day you will ‘get over it’.

    This is especially prevalent around people who one thinks ought to know better, especially family members who have also been subject or witness to an abuser’s activity and especially if they then become the abuser’s protector.

    One becomes numb because one relives daily the disbelief associated with the outcomes of the trauma. It is always too easy to fall back into the loop because it is a safe place to be where you can view what is going on around you with some objectivity.

    It is also manifest in the relationships a survivor needs to build with those who are assisting because it can be expected that one’s position as a victim becomes undermined by the law.

    The resulting anger can easily erupt when the law does not give credibility to the suffering that is experienced by the survivor.

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