The 6 Red Flags That Indicate You Need to Seek Help for PTSD
The symptoms that contribute to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), only received their official definition within standard psychiatry in the 1980s. But the truth is, the condition has been around for much longer. PTSD is the result of an inability or lack of opportunity to process an extraordinary or traumatic event at the time it’s experienced. Or, in other words, it is “an anxiety condition that develops in reaction to physical injury or severe mental or emotional distress.”
For this reason, it is usually most prevalent in those who’ve served in the armed forces, having taken a tour of duty in an active warzones – although this isn’t always the case. The account of Septimus in the modernist classic ‘Mrs Dalloway’ is one such example. Although a fictionalised account, not only did it portray the symptoms of a battle-scarred world war one veteran, but also highlighted the misunderstandings around the condition.
PTSD is very different from a standard stress-based response. You can’t develop PTSD from surprising or shocking events, because in most instances, we’re able to process them. If we encounter something that jars the senses, we’re able to talk about it and thus effect some kind of closure. With extreme and prolonged levels of distress on the other hand, this outlet can belacking. It forces the experiencer to suppress their emotions, becoming stuck in a loop of re-experiencing the event through subtle triggers and subconscious cues that occur weeks, months and even years later.
Although many of the symptoms of PTSD are quite well known, others are not so apparent and may be attributed to reasons other the onset of the condition. Here are some of the key red flags that may indicate an individual may need to seek help. They can be broken down into the following groups:
Stressors (One Required)
For there to be a reasonable assumption that any stress being experienced is PTSD, it needs to be linked a traumatic event, which includes the following:
– Direct exposure or involvement in a traumatic event.
– Witnessing a traumatic event.
– Experiencing trauma as a first responder (police, medic, firefighter, or other emergency services)
Intrusion Symptoms (One Required)
These form the majority of recognisable signs of PTSD. The classic examples that may be used to portray the condition in fictionalised television dramas or other media. These include:
– Intense and disturbing nightmares.
– A heightened sense of distress after being exposed to known ‘trigger situations.’
Mood and Thought Changes (Two Required)
Changes in mood can often be hard to attribute to cases of PTSD, given dynamic nature of character. For this to be considered a symptom, the change needs to be persistent, as opposed to fleeting. Some examples include:
– The blaming of self or others for their trauma. (a victimhood mindset)
– An increase in apathy towards interests and hobbies.
– A negative self-image and outlook on the world.
– The inability to remember the traumatic event clearly.
– The feeling of being isolated.
Avoidance (One Required)
This is characterised by the need to avoid all instances and situations that may remind the experiencer of the trauma. These include:
– Avoiding certain situations that may trigger the memory of the trauma.
– The avoidance of thoughts and emotions, often through the use of drugs and alcohol.
Changes to Reactivity (Two Required)
Along with intrusion symptoms, changes in reactivity are potentially the most disruptive symptoms someone may experience. They can lead to unwanted and uncomfortable situations for those caught in the middle of them. Some of the most common signs include:
– Aggression or irritability
– Hypervigilance and hyperawareness
– Difficulty concentrating
– Difficulty sleeping
– A heightened response to unexpected situations.
– Engaging in destructive or risky behaviour
– Sleeping Issues, such as insomnia.
Although this list provides anoverview of what PTSD looks like, it’s important not to diagnose the problem yourself. Symptoms often overlap in many mental health conditions, making it hard to determine what the underlying condition is without the guidance of a professional.