What PTSD Looks Like

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With the world experiencing the worst pandemic since the Spanish Flu of 1918, experts are predicting a significant increase in PTSD. Many survivors of COVID-19 will likely face further struggles after they pull through their life-threatening infection.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that typically occurs after individuals have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a serious accident, natural disaster, terrorist attack, war/combat, rape or another violent personal assaults.

In the past, PTSD went by different names. During and right after the years of World War I, the term “shell shock” was often used. After World War II, “combat fatigue” was the term that signified a reaction to a higher level of stress or trauma.

However, PTSD isn’t experienced only by combat veterans. It occurs in all people. An estimate prior to Coronavirus pandemic indicated approximately 24 million people in the United States have PTSD at any given time period. That is equal to the total population of Texas. This number is sure to rise by a staggering amount in what could be and even more staggering time-frame.

What is It Like to Have PTSD?

Individuals who suffer from PTSD continue to have intense and disturbing thoughts and feelings regarding the traumatic experience. Though the event itself may have taken place weeks, months or even years ago, the thoughts and feelings are fresh in a person’s mind. They may look real live events through flashbacks or nightmares.

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PTSD was misunderstood for many years.

Often individuals feel isolated and detached from others, and will go to great lengths to avoid situations that may remind them of the event. They may have strong, negative reaction two ordinary experiences that involve noise or an accidental touch. Sometimes people who suffer from PTSD can be mistaken for being irritable, angry, high-strung, and overly emotional.

Symptoms of PTSD

Symptoms of PTSD fall into four categories and can vary in severity from individual to individual.

Intrusive Thoughts

Intrusive thoughts can take many forms: involuntary memories, nightmares and flashbacks are commonly experienced by those with PTSD. These thoughts can be so completely vivid that the individual believes they are actually reliving the traumatic experience in the moment.

Distorted ideas

It is common for those with PTSD to have distorted thoughts and beliefs about themselves or others, ongoing fear, anger, guilt or shame. These thoughts can look like, “I am a bad person,” “I can’t trust anyone,” or “I should have died, not her.”

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PTSD often leads to distorted thoughts.

As a result of these distortions, people often experience decreased interest in activities they once enjoyed. They also begin to feel detached or estranged from loved ones. Depression is often misdiagnosed in the case of PTSD.

Reactive Behavior

Reactive behavior associated with PTSD can include many angry outbursts, irritability, behaving recklessly or in a self-destructive way, easily startled, or having problems concentrating or sleeping. Multiple anxiety disorders are often misdiagnosed when, in fact the individual is suffering from PTSD.

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People with PTSD suffer from intrusive, upsetting thoughts.

Many people who experience or witness a traumatic event may experience symptoms like these in the days following the event. However, people diagnosed with PTSD can experience the symptoms for months and even years. PTSD often occurs with other related conditions, such as depression, substance use, memory problems and other physical and mental problems.

Are you struggling with PTSD? If you need more resources and support, we can help. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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 take control and move From Surviving to Thriving.