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PTSD Part 3: Common Signs, Symptoms, Attacks and Flashbacks

Do you suspect you might have post-traumatic stress disorder? If you do, it is essential that you look at the common signs and symptoms first, then talk to your doctor about it. You should never just leave your mental illness up to chance, especially with something like PTSD.

Here are some of the more common symptoms people with PTSD usually have. You may have some, but most likely not all, so keep that in mind. You do not need to have every single symptom in order to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Categories of Symptoms

Instead of just listing all the signs and symptoms for PTSD, it is easier to look at the four different categories. These four categories are basically different types of symptoms that someone with PTSD often struggles with. You might have more of one category, a little of each, or another combination of symptoms.

Dreams and Flashbacks – The first category of symptoms for post-traumatic stress disorder have to do with the flashbacks. Since this is such a big part of PTSD, we are also going to go a little more in-depth into flashbacks in the next section.  This category of symptoms is all about re-living or experiencing the traumatic event over and over again, which then causes a lot of anxiety and panic. You may feel as if you are dealing with the event, either while awake or dreaming. The flashbacks feel extremely real until someone can bring you back to reality.

Avoidance Tendencies – The next category of PTSD symptoms has to do with how you handle situations. Typically, you practice avoidance, which is similar to other forms of anxiety as well. You will avoid certain areas or people related to the event. If you had a bad accident in an elevator, you will do everything you can to never take the elevator. 

Fear, Guilt, and Shame – The third category is all about negative feelings and emotions you have after the event. This is when you have a lot of negativity in your mind, where you have a hard time socializing and being the person you were before the event. You have a lot of shame and guilt if you survived an event that someone else did, fear, and panic surrounding memories of the event.

High Alert or Hyperarousal – Being on high alert, also called hyperarousal, is also very common in people with post-traumatic stress disorder. With this category of symptoms, you probably experience lack of focus, insomnia, and difficulty concentrating on any one thing. It also includes unhealthy habits like smoking or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, behaving recklessly, and constantly being on the lookout for danger.

If you have these series of symptoms, you should consult a doctor right away. It is essential that you not ignore the symptoms and that you get proper treatment for your post-traumatic stress disorder.

A big part of having PTSD is dealing with the flashbacks, memories, nightmares, and resulting panic attacks that occur. The flashbacks often feel very real, and can actually cause you to hurt yourself or others as a result, which is why treatment for the anxiety disorder is so important.

For example, if you were in a terrible car accident, you can be in someone’s vehicle on a busy street, experience a flashback because of something that looks familiar, and actually exit the vehicle before anyone can stop you. This puts you in danger of being hit by other cars on the road, but also puts other drivers at risk if they are slamming on their breaks to avoid you.

Dissociation - Part of the flashbacks and panic attacks with PTSD is experiencing dissociation. This occurs when you don’t feel connected to the world around you. This is another form of a panic attack and often results from having memories or flashbacks. There are different effects that come from dissociation, like losing a small amount of memory from events that occur during this time, or simply not realizing what is going on around you. Depending on where you are when this happens, it can also be very dangerous for you.

Avoiding Flashbacks and Dissociation - If this sounds like something you are experiencing, you need to figure out what triggers you. You will also notice a pattern with this and other anxiety disorders, as many of them have triggers that make the attacks or flashbacks a lot worse.  The triggers can be extremely subtle, so by keeping a journal with you every time you experience these events, you should be able to narrow down what your triggers are. It can be as small as seeing someone who looks similar to your attacker, to hearing a loud sound like what you heard during a car crash you were in.  It is also a good idea to look for the early warning signs of a flashback coming on so that you can warn whoever you are with. They can help you get to a safe, secure location where you and other people will not be harmed.


Other PTSD Articles in This Series:






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