Just as the shocking and horrific instances of mass shootings continue to occur all over the United States, we often hear people talk about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Historically, this was frequently (and only) associated with war veterans and victims of mass violence. However, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a condition that can develop in anyone who experiences or witnesses a traumatic or life-threatening event.

There are many instances of trauma that can cause someone to develop PTSD besides combat or witnessing a terrorist attack. Anyone of any age that has experienced a violent or sexual assault, a natural disaster, a car accident or any other shocking or dangerous event is at risk of developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Also worth noting, is that the same two people can be exposed to the same traumatic event while one walks away seemingly unscathed and the other one develops PTSD.

Here are 4 tell-tale signs of PTSD:

1. Reliving the event

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If you find yourself constantly reliving the traumatic event in your head over and over, you need to get help.

Someone with PTSD will involuntary re-experience the trauma through nightmares, flashbacks, triggers, and unwanted thoughts or memories. Sounds or smells can also take them back to the traumatic experience, or they may develop physical ailments when they reminded of all remember the event. For example, when remembering the car accident, somebody can suddenly feel the physical pain they experienced during that accident or feel butterflies in their stomach or tightness in their chest.

2. Symptoms of arousal & reactivity

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People with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder often become angry, irritable, agitated, and easily startle easily.

People who suffer from PTSD will frequently feel on edge, unsafe or be easily startled. They’re also more prone to anger, agitation, or sadness. It’s also extremely common for victims of PTSD to have difficulty sleeping and concentrating, and they may develop changes in their eating habits by either eating too much or too little.

3. Avoidance behavior

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Avoiding people, places, and things that remind you of the event is a warning sign you have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Someone suffering from PTSD may avoid the area where they experienced the event, or areas that remind them of what happened. They may also avoid people, events or objects that bring negative memories to the surface. It’s also very common for people who struggle with PTSD to avoid talking about the situation, and make unhealthy behavioral attempts to avoid feelings related to the event.

4. Negative thoughts & feelings

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Survivor’s guilt often accompanies people who suffer from PTSD.

Feelings of shame, guilt, self-blame, and exaggerated negative beliefs are common with people who struggle with PTSD. They may lose interest in things they once enjoyed and isolate themselves from friends and loved ones. Symptoms of PTSD closely mirror that of depression and as such, often gets misdiagnosed. It’s also not uncommon for people with PTSD to entirely lose trust in people, or to believe that the world is a dangerous place. This unhealthy belief, if left unchecked, can develop into forms of chronic anxiety and other debilitating mental health conditions.

After experiencing a traumatic event, it’s natural for anyone to have any of the symptoms listed above. However, for someone suffering with PTSD, the symptoms persist for weeks, months, or even longer and begin to affect their ability to function in daily life. 

Life is short. But living with PTSD can feel like an eternity. If you’re struggling to manage the overwhelming emotions associated with a traumatic event you experienced, find an awesome therapist or life coach you like and trust to teach you tools to cope with your emotions and ways to find peace.

James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.