Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder feels like you are in constant survival mode. There are days when the darkness overcomes you, but you’re not sure why. Your muscles are often sore and tense because they are preparing for fight or flight. You feel paranoid that something wrong could happen at any given time. The tension builds inside of your body as you hope that you won’t have a panic attack or a flashback in public. You can’t remember the last time that you woke up feeling rested.
Here are some of the symptoms of PTSD:
Flashbacks feel like you are reliving the trauma that happened in the past. Your brain makes a connection with a current trigger or something that currently reminds you of the past trauma, and then your nervous system relives the trauma physically, emotionally or through your other senses such as sight, hearing and smell. Sometimes the flashbacks feel worse than the original trauma. A flashback might feel like a tension building in your body before they happen.
You might have frequent nightmares. This can lead to the feeling that you aren’t getting enough rest. You may or may not remember your nightmare in the morning, but the emotion from the dream might linger with you.
Lack of trust
It might feel impossible to trust other people and yourself because the world feels incredibly unsafe. Trusting others might be terrifying and leave you feeling vulnerable. This lack of trust can create avoidance of others, resulting in a lack of connection with those around you. This lack of trust can also look like hypervigilance. Hypervigilance is the feeling that you are always on guard, watching your back.
Terror and rage
Terror and rage – You might experience that minor things become magnified. Your nervous system goes into fight or flight, and you react in a way that you later regret. Lashing out at others might happen if a past experience comes into the present moment. In order to avoid the feelings of terror, you might try to avoid people, emotions and places that remind you of the trauma. People with PTSD feel ashamed after they have a big reaction. This shame only adds to the suffering.
The shame can come from blaming yourself from how you were treated or how you reacted during the trauma. I often hear people say, “I am broken.” The shame can feel heavy and lead to self-harming or suicidal thoughts. When people go through a trauma, their mind and body survive the best way that they can at the moment. They might have done something during the incident that they later regretted. They might blame themselves for the abuse or terror that they have undergone.
Blaming yourself or others for the trauma leads to a false sense of control. The false logic is, If I can blame someone or something, then perhaps I can prevent this from happening again. Knowing that there are unpredictable events in the universe can feel terrifying.
Depression, anxiety and grief
There will be days that you are anxious because you are waiting for the other shoe to drop, for someone or something to hurt you. There will be days that you will feel depressed because it feels like you will never feel better. There will be days that you grieve the loss of others and the loss of yourself.
Your body will hurt
The adrenaline that is flowing through your veins, preparing you to fight or run, might leave your muscles sore and achy, you might get headaches or stomach aches.
PTSD often feels hopeless, but it is not. Some treatments will help ease your suffering. You might feel like you are a warrior, in a constant battle for survival. It’s ok to stop fighting.
Although I am a registered clinical psychologist with the Hong Kong Society of Counseling and Psychology, I am not a licensed psychologist or any other type of licensed therapist in the United States. The information I am providing here is educational and informational. This social media page does not provide professional advice, nor does it create a professional-client relationship or any other type of relationship between us. You should always consult your own licensed mental health professional before making any changes regarding your mental health. My goal is to educate, guide, consult, and empower you regarding your mental health journey. Always consult your licensed mental healthcare provider(s) and never disregard or delay medical advice based on information posted on this page or post.