How Do I Know If I Have PTSD?

How Do I Know If I Have PTSD?

How Do I Know If I Have PTSD?

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Published: January 26, 2023

Most people experience traumatic events at some stage in their life. Not every traumatized person will develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but some will. This illness is an anxiety disorder with distressing mental and physical symptoms. A person with PTSD struggles with their memories, thoughts, and feelings in response to their trauma. PTSD can have a significant impact on everyday life.

PTSD is often associated with living through war. It is one of the known mental health problems for military veterans and survivors of conflict. However, someone may develop PTSD after any life-threatening event, such as a natural disaster, a car accident, or a robbery. The trauma experienced as a result of abusive relationships, harassment, and bullying can also cause PTSD.

If you're wondering whether you or a loved one has developed PTSD, this blog post is for you. Read on to find out about how people develop PTSD, its common symptoms, and the treatments used to aid recovery.

Who Develops Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Who Develops Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

It is normal to feel strong negative emotions when faced with dangerous and threatening situations. Even escaping a situation unharmed after believing that injury or death was unavoidable can cause trauma. Threatened sexual violence or having a weapon pointed at you can have a serious emotional impact.

Sometimes, people can move on from trauma without developing mental health problems. Other times, they may develop post-traumatic stress disorder. According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, six out of every 100 people will develop PTSD at some point.

This mental illness can be experienced by anyone. However, figures from the Department of Veterans Affairs suggest that it is more common in women. Eight out of 100 women develop PTSD compared to four out of 100 men.

What Is a Traumatic Event?

A traumatic event is any kind of situation or experience that causes harm, either physical, emotional, or psychological, and affects you negatively. This trauma can be experienced first-hand or through watching someone else, for instance, a close friend, in a life-threatening event.

Ultimately, trauma is subjective. It depends on each individual to define what is dangerous for them and what negatively impacts their emotions.

Sometimes people can fail to accept that someone else has experienced trauma. This may be because they have restricted ideas about which events can be called traumatic events. Trauma can be experienced in all kinds of situations, such as the following.

  • Difficult childbirth experiences
  • Vehicular accidents
  • Experiencing severe illness
  • Being attacked
  • Sexual assault
  • Being threatened with weapons
  • Domestic violence
  • Child abuse
  • Sudden or violent bereavement
  • Bullying at school or at work

The examples above show that trauma is not limited to one-off events. A person can be traumatized over a period of time by difficult situations such as abusive relationships. These can feel like one traumatic experience after another.

How Does PTSD Develop?

Although it is known that PTSD develops in response to trauma, the exact causes of the condition are still not completely known. It is believed that PTSD occurs for several reasons.

One theory is that people develop PTSD when their survival instinct goes wrong. After a traumatic event, it is natural to analyze what happened in order to think of ways to avoid or survive a similar event in the future. This mechanism becomes unhealthy with PTSD, where the person is disturbed by memories of their trauma.

Research has found a relationship between PTSD and the size of the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in memory. Brain scans show that people with a smaller hippocampus have more severe PTSD symptoms. It is believed that PTSD makes the hippocampus smaller and that this makes it harder for a person to process their traumatic memories.

Studies have also shown that there is a relationship between hormone levels and PTSD. This is a complex area of research due to the number of hormones involved, and findings are still emerging. Research has suggested that women may be twice as vulnerable to PTSD as men because of the action of estrogen and progesterone on memory formation.

Why Doesn't Everyone Get PTSD?

Not everyone who suffers a traumatic event will develop PTSD symptoms. The reasons why some people don't develop them are not completely known. What is clear is that certain risk factors will put some people at greater risk of PTSD after traumatic events.

  • A person is at greater risk of developing PTSD if they already have a history of being emotionally or physically abused. This is because the pre-existing effects of trauma and the new trauma may reinforce each other's impact.
  • If a person already has an anxiety disorder or other mental health problems, they may be more likely to experience PTSD after a traumatic event.
  • If the traumatic event causes a person to experience a major loss, such as the loss of their loved ones, their home, or their livelihood, this may make them more vulnerable to PTSD.
  • Receiving a serious injury or becoming ill because the event happened may increase a person's risk.
  • If the person is isolated and does not receive the necessary emotional support they may be more vulnerable to PTSD.

It is worth remembering that every individual is unique and it is not always clear why PTSD affects some people but not others.

If you are worried about a loved one, it is important to keep an open mind about their risk factors. Even if they have never shown any sign of anxiety or other mental health problems, it is not a guarantee that they can not become mentally unwell.

There is a recognized link between substance abuse and PTSD. A past history of abusing alcohol or drugs can make a person more likely to suffer from PTSD. Furthermore, people may turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate.

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD symptoms can develop as soon as you experience trauma, a few weeks or many months later. Additionally, the specific symptoms of PTSD can differ between individuals. For instance, some can have constant severe symptoms, while for others, the symptoms are less noticeable.

Knowing the symptoms of PTSD can help you prepare for when you are experiencing it and to know when to seek medical treatment.

Re-experiencing and Flashbacks

One of the most common symptoms of PTSD is involuntarily reliving the traumatic events.

  • Flashbacks. You feel like the traumatic event is taking place in the present moment and experience physical symptoms such as a racing heartbeat, sweating, or feeling sick.
  • Reoccurring intrusive memories, bad dreams, or nightmares related to the event
  • Distressing and intrusive thoughts or images in response to what happened

Avoidance

Another common symptom of PTSD is avoidance. You may avoid people, places, and activities that remind you of the traumatic event. You will also avoid certain conversations because you fear they will remind you and trigger symptoms such as flashbacks and physical sensations.

The avoidance symptoms of PTSD include the following.

  • Feeling the need to be busy all the time
  • Using drugs or alcohol to avoid memories
  • Feeling emotionally numb or cut off from your feelings
  • Feeling detached from your body
  • Being unable to remember certain details of the trauma

Hyperarousal

Someone with PTSD may also struggle to relax and be constantly alert to the dangers surrounding them. If you notice that a friend seems easily startled more than a month after an event that threatened death, such as a car accident, it may be a good idea to watch for PTSD symptoms.

PTSD arousal symptoms include the following.

  • Being easily startled or jumpy
  • Having angry outbursts
  • Feeling always on guard, tense, or on edge known as hypervigilance
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleep problems, either not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep
  • Panic attacks
  • Aversion or difficulty in tolerating sound
  • Self-destructive behaviors

Other Physical Sensations or Mood Symptoms

An individual who has PTSD may also notice a change in how they think about day-to-day life and the people around them.

They may experience the following symptoms.

  • Feelings of not being able to trust or talk to anyone
  • Feelings of blame and shame related to the trauma
  • Overwhelming negative emotions such as fear, anger, sadness, or guilt
  • Feelings of not being safe anywhere
  • Difficulty in experiencing feelings such as happiness and satisfaction
  • Loss of interest in favorite activities and hobbies
  • Other symptoms such as stomach aches, dizziness, and headaches

What Is Complex PTSD?

Complex PTSD is caused by long-term or recurring traumatic episodes, such as childhood abuse or domestic violence. In these cases, the individual has lived through a long period of repeated trauma, and fear may have been a part of their everyday life.

Complex PTSD has all symptoms of PTSD, but it also affects relationships and includes more severe issues.

  • Problems controlling and coping with emotions and feelings
  • Difficulty in maintaining relationships, either romantic, friendships, or with family members
  • Difficulty connecting with other people
  • Constant feelings of worthlessness
  • Constant negative thoughts of shame and guilt
PTSD Diagnosis

PTSD Diagnosis

If it has been more than a month since you experienced or witnessed a traumatic event and you have the symptoms described above, you might be suffering from PTSD.

It is important to remember only a mental health professional can diagnose PTSD. They have the knowledge to distinguish between the symptoms of this mental illness and the usual negative thoughts, common reactions, and feelings related to trauma.

If you believe that you or someone you care about is experiencing symptoms that look like PTSD, seek a diagnosis from a mental health professional. They will also be able to identify another mental health condition that might be causing recurrent negative thoughts such as depression or anxiety.

Mental health providers can offer you or your loved one multiple treatment options to ease the memories, flashbacks, and nightmares.

Treatment options at GIA Miami

GIA Miami is a luxury wellness center for the treatment of mental health conditions, including PTSD. We provide a range of treatment options that can help you get back to living daily life free from fear.

We will develop your treatment plan following a comprehensive individualized assessment to help us decide the best path for you. Every individual with PTSD is unique and benefits from a selection of therapies tailored to their needs.

Our therapies for PTSD are backed by science and include:

  • TMS therapy. This is a non-invasive method of stimulating your brain to restore stability to the areas associated with processing emotion
  • Mental health assessment and treatment of other conditions that may be affecting your well-being, such as depression, anxiety, or substance misuse.
  • Assessment of your sleep and a sleep modulation program if necessary.
  • Talk therapy. You may be offered a number of therapies to help your recovery. Therapies at GIA Miami include cognitive-behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy.

At GIA Miami, we believe successful treatment starts with a compassionate, highly qualified and experienced team.

If you are worried that you might be experiencing symptoms of PTSD or other mental health problems, get in touch with GIA Miami today.

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