What are the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?


Trauma seems to be predominant in conversations outside and inside the counseling arena. More and more kids are being identified as being a victim of abuse – sexual, domestic, physical violence and natural disasters. There is also talk of how our military is coping with the war experience and that many will come back with anxiety reactions. Most individuals who suffer from any of these conditions may be experiencing what we call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD.

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and how do you identify if you or a loved one has it? There is a diversity of symptoms therapists look for in PTSD. Here are some of the most prevalent symptoms. The person may encounter some of the signs and some more than others.

Re-experiencing Symptoms

Intrusive recollections

remembering the event and contemplating it over and over.

Traumatic nightmares

These are dreams that represent the abuse or reminders of the abuse that traumatizes you frequently.

PTSD Flashbacks

A touch, a smell, a tone of voice, a scenario may trigger feelings that the event will occur again or bring back memories of the past.

Trauma Related Stress

It happens before the flashback and reduces the traumatic event as if it is occurring again. They are distanced from the present and feel like they are in the same circumstances.

Avoidance/Numbing Symptoms

  • Amnesia about the thought in question
  • Efforts to circumvent trauma-related feelings and thought
  • Sense of foreshortened future
  • Efforts to evade trauma-related places, activities, and people
  • Limited range of emotion
  • Diminished interest in things previously fancied doing.
  • Feeling estranged or detached-they anesthetize the loving feelings that are required to nurture any intimate, loving relationship.

Hyperarousal Symptoms

  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Trouble Concentrating
  • Hypervigilance (always alarmed)

These are all post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and are found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition – Text Revision.

Many therapies can treat post-traumatic stress disorder and are deemed beneficial. There is no one right way. The most popular and widespread form of PTSD treatment is an evidence based treatment called Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It is mainly used for kids between 3-16 years of age. The treatment explores coping with skills such as mindfulness, relaxation, guided imagery and grounding. Right from cognitive behavioral therapy, it concentrates on thoughts that create feelings that cause specific behaviors.

To break the cycle, you need to confront the thoughts and make new thoughts to change emotions and feelings. It also has the kid create a detailed trauma narrative. The kid does this over time, and it is looked at repeatedly until the child feels comfortable with it. The trauma narrative is read to the parents without the patient there during the process. Once the kid can read the trauma to the therapist, they develop the instinct to read it to the parent or a trusted adult in their lives.

There is more to Trauma-Focused-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy than described here. It is one among several options and you can discuss the right therapy model for you, with your therapist. One of the criticisms involved in this approach is that some people rather forget the event and move on with their lives. They do not feel the need to relive the experience. So some people may be opposed to this kind of therapy. The question is, how are you going to get past the symptoms and thoughts if you do not face what you are scared of?

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