Posttraumatic-Stress Disorder (PTSD) occurs when someone goes through trauma(s) and experiences a specific pattern of difficulty afterward. PTSD can impact multiple areas of a person’s life, sometimes even in ways one might not expect. PTSD generally shows itself through symptoms in four different areas. These areas are: re-experiencing the event, avoidance, changes in thought patterns and mood, and alterations in level of bodily arousal.
Re-experiencing symptoms are when you recall what happened either involuntarily or when you are reminded of the event. A person may have memories enter their mind without warning, they may experience recurrent dreams related to the trauma, or they may even experience flashbacks in which they feel they are back in time and the trauma is occurring now. When these reminders happen, you may experience emotional and physical reactions.
Avoidance symptoms are typical, and quite understandable, in PTSD. Simply put, people with PTSD avoid reminders of the trauma. This includes both internal and external reminders. For instance, someone with PTSD may avoid external reminders by avoiding people or places that they associate with the trauma. Maybe they do not travel to a certain part of town any longer. Maybe they cut off social ties with people who remind them of the trauma. In avoiding internal reminders, people may intentionally avoid thinking about memories, feelings or thoughts related to the trauma. This can often happen through the use of distractions or substance use.
PTSD also involves changes in thinking patterns and mood. These changes may arise in several ways. After the trauma, a person may not be able to experience joyous or loving feelings, feel disconnected from other people, and may even find themselves in a consistent state of fear, anger, or shame. Sometimes, people will lose interest in activities that they used to enjoy. Beliefs may arise that are overly negative or exaggerated, such as, “everyone is dangerous” or “this was all my fault.”
Finally, PTSD usually includes changes in bodily arousal. Someone who used to be calm may now be easily startled by noises, such as doors slamming or cars honking. They may also find themselves always on alert, maybe consistently scanning a room for threats for never sitting with their back to a door. Irritability, reckless behavior, and difficulty concentrating and sleeping often arise as well.
As with any diagnosis, only a trained clinician can determine whether or not someone’s experience reaches the threshold of PTSD. Even if you do not have PTSD, the impact of traumatic events can influence your life, and no clinician at Corner Canyon Counseling would ever discount how painful and impactful someone’s experience has been, regardless of how big or small it may seem to others. Our supportive, empathetic therapist are here to listen to your concerns.