PTSD Warning Signs


Not everyone develops posttraumatic stress disorder after experiencing a traumatic event, so who is most at risk, and what should you look for?

Tragedies like the Sandy Hook school shooting, the recent attacks at the Empire State Building and the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado leave many survivors struggling, but why do some people have a harder time coping with the aftermath of traumatic events than others?

You don’t have to witness a shooting to suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). An illness, loss of a loved one, sexual abuse or a physical assault can all trigger PTSD or cause stress symptoms.  While everyone handles trauma differently, researchers have found predictable similarities in those suffering PTSD or exposed to severe trauma.

Those of us on the sidelines of catastrophic events feel pain for the victims and distress at the apparent senselessness of violence. We may also feel proud of the bravery of those on the scene and encouraged by the sense of community and goodwill an event like this can create in its wake.

Those who live through a life-threatening situation will suffer emotionally in some way, but not all will develop PTSD. Why do some recover more quickly while others who go through the same experience develop a chronic psychiatric condition that requires professional intervention?

People who have tremendous emotional upset immediately after the traumatic event are at much greater risk of developing PTSD according a recent report by CNN. It was previously thought that those who responded calmly were at greater risk of falling apart later, but research doesn’t show that to be true. CNN’s experts found that people who cope well in the minutes, days and weeks after trauma typically do well over the long term, while those who become “unglued” are more likely to having ongoing difficulties in the weeks and months to follow.

Coping well and staying calm is different from a state called dissociation. When people dissociate, they tend to feel they are watching themselves from an outside vantage point. They feel like there is an invisible wall between themselves and the rest of the world.

A minority of traumatized people who will develop PTSD, but it is important to look for PTSD symptoms after a traumatic event. These symptoms include the following:

  • Intrusive memories of the event, often in the form of flashbacks and nightmares
  • Psychological distress and physical symptoms such as a pounding heart
  • Avoidance or becoming emotionally numb
  • Going to extreme lengths to avoid anything that reminds them of the trauma
  • Activities and interests that once bought joy are no longer pleasurable
  • Hope for the future is diminished
  • Hyperarousal, a state that makes it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep and causes irritability, angry outbursts and difficulty concentrating
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders like depression or substance abuse
  • Drug or alcohol misuse in an attempt to self medicate or avoid unwanted feelings

PTSD Help at The Canyon

If you see signs of PTSD or suspect a loved one is in trouble, call The Canyon at the toll-free number on our homepage. We are here 24 hours a day to answer any questions you have about PTSD treatment, financing or insurance.

Wendy Lee Nentwig

By Wendy Lee Nentwig
Guest Contributor

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