Understanding PTSD: Signs, Symptoms, Triggers, and Where to Get Help

A distressed woman sitting with her knees up and her head in her arms - Understanding PTSD

Despite the news coverage, individuals and families may still have questions with understanding post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. If you or someone you care about is suffering from trauma or PTSD and you would like more information, keep reading to learn more about this condition and how you can get help.

Understanding PTSD: Who is at risk?

Anyone is at risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder if they have been through one or more traumatic events in their lifetime. Such circumstances might include:

  • Being in an accident
  • Experiencing an illness or severe injury
  • Suffering from physical, sexual or emotional abuse
  • Surviving a life-threatening situation, such as war or a natural disaster

It is important to note that the trauma does not have to occur from one singular event. PTSD can develop because of a series of events happening over a lengthy period. Such as when a child is abused for years by an abusive parent or someone else. Often, those involved may not even realise that what they are experiencing is trauma and may discount it as “normal” or something they should “get over.” Yet, people living with PTSD can experience troubling symptoms if they don’t seek treatment.

Understanding PTSD: Emotional signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms of PTSD can be confusing if you don’t know what to look for. Often, they seem to have no connection to PTSD, even though PTSD is the root cause. People with PTSD often struggle with:

  • Nightmares or upsetting dreams
  • Memories or thoughts about the trauma that they can’t shake
  • Feeling negative or hopeless
  • Experiencing fear of being in danger
  • Having feelings of shame or guilt
  • Feeling irritable or angry

Because of these emotional problems, people with PTSD often have difficulty maintaining relationships, especially with those they care about or who care about them.

Understanding PTSD: Physical signs and symptoms

Besides emotional signs and symptoms, there are physical signs to watch for. For example:

  • Avoiding going near the location where the trauma occurred or interacting with the people involved
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Engaging in unhealthy or dangerous behaviours such as smoking, drinking alcohol, drug use, etc.
  • Difficulty concentrating

However, if you don’t have awareness and understanding of the trauma or traumas and PTSD, the signs and symptoms may seem disconnected and irrelevant. It might seem as though they make little sense.

Understanding PTSD: Triggers

Triggers connect such behaviours and symptoms to PTSD. A trigger is something that causes the people living with PTSD to fear that they are in danger. When a person living with PTSD encounters a trigger, it can take them from the present, putting them mentally and emotionally back into the place of trauma. Sometimes this might take the form of a flashback where it feels as though they are experiencing some aspect or aspects of the trauma all over again. A trigger can happen at any time. For example:

  • Hearing a loud noise if you were in combat or war
  • Seeing a photo of your ex from an abusive relationship
  • Passing by the street intersection where you had a car accident
  • Encountering a small that takes you back to what happened

These are just a few of the many ways that someone who experienced trauma might be triggered. Sometimes the feelings invoked by such reminders are incredibly severe. As a result, many people living with PTSD try to avoid situations that bring on PTSD symptoms at all costs.

Understanding PTSD: Suicide

One of the most troubling of all impacts of PSTD is that it can leave one more prone to suicide. Someone who has PTSD can feel as if everything is hopeless, that they cannot “fix” what’s wrong, and that the only solution is to end their life. However, real help is possible for resolving PTSD.

Understanding PTSD: Where to get help

If you or someone you know needs immediate help, you can contact the Samaritans on 116 123. Also, check out these other resources offering help in a crisis.

For long term assistance for resolving PTSD consider working with a counsellor who is trained in treating PTSD. It may be hard to face these issues, but with the help of your counsellor, you can resolve the trauma and the PTSD together. PTSD affects many people and, if left untreated, can have devastating results. However, by working with a counsellor, you can break free of PTSD and heal from your trauma.

If you would like to speak with someone about PTSD and how counselling might help please call us on 0151 329 3637, email enquiries@counselling-matters.org.uk or complete our online referral form. We look forward to hearing from you.


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