The effects of a traumatic event can go unnoticed or misdiagnosed for years. The main reason is that the person affected by it, does not know how to recognize the signs. Here is how to tell if you are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
First, we have to explain that the word “trauma” does not necessarily describe an extremely violent experience, such as war, the death or someone dear, a natural disaster, prolonged physical and emotional abuse, and other stereotypes. Trauma can be the end of a relationship, a dog bite, changing the place of work and so on. What makes an event traumatic is the inability of the person to integrate the change that occurred and live with it without much disturbance of the everyday life.
However, not every traumatic event triggers a stress disorder.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a chronic inability to readapt to the normal pace, after a person has been exposed to trauma. In order to get a diagnosis of PTSD, the person has to experience the following:
- Persistent reliving of the traumatic event – the person has intrusive memories that force her to relieve the panic; the flashbacks are disruptive of the everyday tasks the person must perform. Often times, the flashbacks are triggered by situations, people or objects that get associated with the trauma. However, that is not a must, as some people don’t need these triggers to experience constant stress from remembering what they has been through.
- Tendency to avoid places, people, objects that may remind them of the trauma – they will avoid other victims of the same traumatic event, they will refuse to talk about it, they will pretend to be fine and not have use for anything that might trigger panic.
- Sleep difficulty – people with PTSD are on constant alert, as they subconsciously want to be prepared for a fight or flight response at any time. The brain does not receive the information that it can relax, mostly because of the intrusive reliving memories, which seem real to it. As a result, they have problems falling asleep, or staying asleep.
- Concentration problems – anxiety triggers a response in the brain that, instead of arranging information and make decisions, it just stores as much detail as it can on that traumatic event, so that, in a similar future situation, it knows how to handle it. The hardest thing for the brain, in this situation, is to choose what to keep and what to throw away, thus making it harder for the person to focus.
- Irritability and lack of patience – this is a symptom of depression more than of anxiety and it comes from deprivation of sleep, inability to reach a calm state and so on.