PTSD Symptoms


PTSD symptoms include panic attacks, anxiety attacks, physical impulses to fight or flight and dissociative disorders

Disruption of any kind is hard.

PTSD symptoms can be very disruptive, bringing on overwhelming terror, the tsunami of a panic attack, rage that comes up and takes over within a split second. At those times, it can feel like there’s nothing you can do about it and no where to go to get away from it.

These symptoms can force people to feel like withdrawing from life, from friends, from any possible arena that might instigate a panic attack, an anxiety attack, or the impulse to fight or fly out of the room.

One woman told me of how she would find herself running out of the room if a man talked with her. It embarrassed her since she felt she didn’t have any control over it. It seemed to happen to her. One minute she’d be in one place, the next minute she’d find herself running away. It was also a relief for her to know these are fight or flight impulses are classic PTSD symptoms.

Another man came to me for a consultation because he would find himself unable to go anywhere where there would be crowds. Even visits to a restaurant with his wife would inundate him with hypervigilent attention to sounds.

He described sitting with his wife but listening to conversations at tables on the other side of the room. Listening to multiple other conversations. Scanning the room with his senses. Waiting. Watching. Intently alert for the slightest sound. Not knowing if he would have to fight his way out of the room.

These kinds of PTSD symptoms are unfortunately common with PTSD. Newer research shows that higher somatic arousal often comes from not having attunement as a child. Attachment researchers write that when a parent helps regulate normal play and exploratory activity the child learns to regulate their own internal affective system.

Classic PTSD symptoms

Although most people think of PTSD symptoms as getting overwhelmed, we also know that trauma symptoms can also be about avoiding.

Avoidance symptoms

  • Not wanting to deal with anything distressing about the event(s)
  • Avoiding any people, places, events, situations, activities that might remind you of trauma
  • Dismissing how you have been affected
  • Feeling numb, detached, disinterested in people or events
  • Internal experience of life not being worth it, that you’re not going to live long, or that your future is limited

On the other hand, when you have PTSD you might feel like you’re in danger, that life is scary. This comes when your nervous system is constantly on alert, making it almost impossible to relax, let go, or be at rest.

Heightened arousal symptoms

  • Hypervigilance, feeling on guard, that your nervous system is scanning for danger
  • Anxiety attacks and panic attacks
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Prone to anger, reactivity, upsets

Intrusive symptoms

  • Memories of a traumatic event
  • Flashbacks or a feeling of reliving something horrible
  • Bad dreams or nightmares that don’t necessarily make sense although they can be specific

Innate Defenses: Fight, Flight, Freeze, Submit/Comply, and Attachment Cry

Fight or Flight We’ve learned a lot from watching animals respond to danger. What’s the first thing an animal will do if under attack? They’ll fight back.

If they can’t fight, their next option will usually be to flee, to get out of the situation.
Their flight response gets activated and they will get away.

Freeze If neither their fight or flight options are open to them, most will freeze. Stop.
Won’t move. Try to get as still and quiet as they can. The hope here is that the attacker
won’t be able to locate them and will move on.

Submit or comply If all these options don’t work, most animals will fall down and “play dead.” They’ll expose their vulnerable neck or belly. They’ll act like they’re already dead, cuz what animal want old meat? As humans this describes when we become nice, or comply, go along with something. We don’t cause waves. We don’t make someone mad at us. It’s a very helpful survival technique.

Cry for help / Attachment There’s also this last innate defense: cry for help. We’ll let cry out — someone help me! I know when my puppy had his first shots five years ago he cried — obviously he didn’t say help me!! but he was pulling away from the doctor, trying to get to me all while this sad, heart wrenching cry came out of him. My instinct was to grab for him, pull him to me and soothe him. That’s the attachment system at play.

For information on reducing stress click here
This is an easy to comprehend site depicting real life experiences of stress as it occurs in day to day living. There are many pages of self help techniques. Develop time management and organizational skills while learning relaxation techniques along with stress reducing tips and much more.

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