Unfortunately, trauma is not a rare occurrence. Unexpected and overwhelming things happen all the time. Research from The National Council for Behavioral Health suggests that 70% have been through a traumatic event. Chances are you’ll experience at least one traumatic event during your lifetime.
Traumatic events leave people feeling anxious, overwhelmed, fearful, and vulnerable. These feelings tend to subside as time passes, though and are mostly resolved within a few weeks. But for some people, these trauma responses linger. They cause significant distress and disruption to daily life, oftentimes making it difficult to function.
Trauma that lingers for months after the event develops into a condition called post-traumatic stress disorder. If you experienced a traumatic event and still feel shaken a few months later, you might be wondering whether you have PTSD. While nothing replaces a professional psychiatric diagnosis, these 10 questions may clarify whether you should seek additional help.
What is Trauma?
Trauma is the emotional response to a distressing, unexpected event, called a traumatic event. Traumatic events cause a person to experience physical, emotional, psychological, or spiritual harm. They are marked by a sense of terror and helplessness and they may either cause or threaten to cause serious injury or death.
Traumatic events include a wide range of situations and experiences. Anything that causes lasting distress can qualify. Some examples of traumatic events include:
- Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
- War, combat, or other forms of violence
- Childhood abuse or neglect
- Witnessing acts of violence
- Natural disasters
- Sudden loss and grief
- Intense medical emergencies or procedures
The extreme stress that results can be difficult or near impossible to cope with. It takes time to work through the residual anxieties and fears that follow a traumatic experience. Most people start feeling better a month or two after the event. When distress lasts for longer than that, though, it may have progressed to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Do You Have PTSD? Questions to Ask Yourself
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the extreme emotional and physical response following a traumatic event. Symptoms begin within the first month after the event and persist for many weeks or months afterward. An estimated 7-8% of the population will have PTSD at some point during their life, and about 8 million adults live with PTSD every year.
Are you wondering whether you have post-traumatic stress disorder?
1. Did you experience a traumatic event?
Have you experienced a traumatic event during your life? It may have been a few months ago or a few years ago; sometimes post-traumatic stress disorder doesn’t develop until years after the event. For example, responses to childhood trauma can manifest much later in life, even in late adulthood.
2. Do you regularly relive or re-experience the event?
Intrusion symptoms are one of the three main groups of PTSD symptoms. These refer to persistently re-experiencing the event through unwanted and intrusive memories, flashbacks, or nightmares. These intrusions also cause significant emotional distress and physical reactivity.
3. Do you avoid certain people, situations, or places?
Avoidance symptoms are the second of the three types of PTSD symptoms. If you avoid people, places, or situations that may trigger trauma-related reminders, thoughts, or feelings, especially to the point of inconveniencing yourself, you may have post-traumatic stress disorder.
4. Do you blame yourself for what happened?
Negative thoughts, feelings, and beliefs are the third group of PTSD symptoms. Directing blame at yourself is a common way to deal with the helplessness and lack of control you had over your traumatic experience.
5. Do you have a hard time remembering certain features of the event?
Your mind may make it difficult to remember particular features of the event to protect you from the intense emotional and physical responses. This inconvenient aspect is your brain’s way of limiting your reactivity. It might be hard to call to mind specific details about what happened, like who was with you, what people were wearing, or what you were doing.
6. Do you feel irritable, hyper-aware, or jumpy?
Feeling irritable or aggressive, hypervigilant, or easily startled are all common features of PTSD. The lasting fight-or-flight response makes it difficult to concentrate or live in the moment because you’re regularly preoccupied. You may also act out with risky or destructive behavior to distract yourself from the negative feelings.
7. Have you withdrawn from friends, family, or other loved ones?
It’s difficult to be around people when you feel on edge and hyper-aware all the time. The resulting nerves, anxiety, and depression may make you want to spend more time by yourself. Withdrawing from the people who care about you is a common response to trauma and a key sign of post-traumatic stress disorder.
8. Do you use substances to cope with your symptoms?
Some people turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to relieve or restrain their negative feelings and emotions. They use substances to temporarily forget about what happened and avoid the difficult and exhausting reactions they experience. If you’re using drugs or alcohol to find relief, this is an important thing to recognize.
9. Is it difficult for you to function in daily life?
Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder make it difficult to function effectively in daily life. Your avoidance symptoms may keep you from wanting to go certain places, spend time with certain people, or even leave the house. Intrusive symptoms cause you to relive the event at unexpected, inconvenient times and cause intense emotional and physical reactions. Negative cognitions and mood symptoms affect the way you view yourself and the world around you, often instilling a deep sense of hopelessness. These symptoms make it hard to keep going, making it difficult or impossible to participate in life.
10. Have your symptoms lasted for a month or longer?
If your symptoms subside after a few weeks or months, you don’t have PTSD. If you’ve lived with these symptoms and they’ve impacted your daily life for a month or more, you may have PTSD. Symptoms that persist in the months or years following the traumatic event are telltale signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Find Help For Your PTSD
Again, the best way to determine whether you have PTSD is to visit a medical or psychiatric professional. It’s not easy to reach out and ask for help when you’re in the throes of trauma response but it’s the first step toward receiving the help you need.
It’s exhausting and difficult to live with PTSD but there are ways to overcome the condition. Clearview Treatment Programs offers a trauma-specific treatment clinic to work with individuals who have post-traumatic stress disorder. We’re here to help you heal from the mental, emotional, and physical distress that trauma causes.
We provide specialized services and uniquely qualified individuals to work with you while you’re here. At Clearview, you’ll learn to recognize your trauma-based symptoms and reactions that keep you from moving forward. Our programs are tailored to your situation and needs, no matter where you come from, what you’ve been through, and where you hope to go.
If you’re ready to learn more about your options at Clearview Treatment Programs, reach out to us today. We’re here to answer any questions or address any concerns you may have. You no longer need to handle your disorder alone; we’re here to walk alongside you every step of the way.