After experiencing a traumatic event, a person can be inflicted with stressful reminders of that event, which can be crippling and debilitating, and seriously interrupt a person’s life. The onset of post-traumatic stress (PTS) doesn’t have a specific time frame, it can take hold weeks, months, or even years after the occurrence of a traumatic event. While there aren’t yet any concrete ways to determine who will and will not experience PTS, a recent study has identified some genetic links. It’s important to understand the symptoms and warning signs of PTS because they can begin to appear at any time, even without warning.
The four hallmark symptoms of PTS involve re-experiencing, avoidance, arousal and reactivity, and mood and cognition. In some cases, a patient needs to express a symptom of at least one of each for at least a month to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress.
The phenomenon of re-experiencing can occur at any time of the day, and frequently disrupts a person’s daily routine. At night, bad dreams and nightmares can upend a full night’s sleep, and depending on the severity of nightmares or night terrors, cause insomnia. These flashbacks can make it feel like a person is experiencing the traumatic event for the first time. The triggers for re-experiencing are typically rooted in reminders of the event in the form of words, objects, or situations.
Reminders of a traumatic event can trigger avoidance symptoms in a person suffering with PTS. Those reminders can be places, things or people. A change in a close relationship with a person they experienced the traumatic event with could be a hint of avoidance. However, avoidance can also manifest in avoiding other people entirely, which can then lead to feeling isolated and alone.
Arousal and Reactivity
While many of the symptoms of PTS can be triggered by something, arousal symptoms tend to be constant. The arousal symptoms typically cause feelings of stress and anger, and can result in angry outbursts. They can also lead to feeling on edge, and being easily startled. Daily tasks such as eating, focusing, and sleeping can all be affected by these symptoms.
Mood and Cognition
While re-experiencing is a well-known symptom of PTS, it isn’t required to diagnose it. Mood swings and changes in mood, such as feelings of hopelessness, numbness, as well as guilt and shame, or even suicidal thoughts, can be an indicator of the onset of PTS. Loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyable is also common, and these feelings can also cause a person to feel isolated and detached from family, friends, and their life.
Symptoms of PTS can vary in intensity, but they don’t operate on a standard progression from mild to intense over time. Instead, they depend on the scenario in which they are triggered. For example, if a person is dealing with a stressful situation and they are triggered, their symptoms could be more intense. For military service members, it is imperative that they have the opportunity to be diagnosed and treated if they experience or display symptoms of PTS. The Intrepid Spirit Centers that the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund is constructing are helping thousands of military service members address and heal from their symptoms of post-traumatic stress. To learn more about these centers click here or, donate today.
Posted on August 12 2019 in Blog