You feel on edge most of the time, unable to truly relax. The nightmares keep coming back. Sudden noises make you jump. You’re staying at home more and more. Could you have PTSD?
If you have experienced severe trauma or a life-threatening event, you may develop symptoms of posttraumatic stress, commonly known as posttraumatic stress disorder, PTSD, shell shock, or combat stress. Maybe you felt like your life or the lives of others were in danger, or that you had no control over what was happening. You may have witnessed people being injured or dying, or you may have been physically harmed yourself. In some cases, perhaps you made it through a combat event where the soldiers around you were killed but you somehow survived.
Some of the most common symptoms of PTSD include recurring memories or nightmares of the event(s), sleeplessness, loss of interest, or feeling numb, anger and irritability, but there are many ways PTSD can impact your everyday life.
Sometimes these symptoms don’t surface for months or years after the event or returning from deployment. They may also come and go. If these problems won’t go away or are getting worse—or you feel like they are disrupting your daily life—you may have PTSD.
Some factors can increase the likelihood of a traumatic event leading to PTSD, such as:
The intensity of the trauma
Being hurt or losing a loved one
Being physically close to the traumatic event
Feeling you were not in control
Having a lack of support after the event
What are the signs of PTSD?
A wide variety of symptoms may be signs you are experiencing PTSD:
Feeling upset by things that remind you of what happened
Having nightmares, vivid memories, or flashbacks of the event that make you feel like it's happening all over again
Feeling emotionally cut off from others
Feeling numb or losing interest in things you used to care about
Thinking that you are always in danger
Feeling anxious, jittery or irritated
Experiencing a sense of panic that something bad is about to happen
Having difficulty sleeping
Having trouble keeping your mind focused on one thing
Having a hard time relating to and getting along with your spouse, family or friends
It’s not just the symptoms of PTSD but also how you may react to them that can disrupt your life. You may:
Frequently avoid places or things that remind you of what happened
Consistent drinking or use of drugs to numb your feelings
Consider harming yourself or others
Start working all the time to occupy your time
Pull away from people and become isolated
What is the treatment for PTSD?
If you have PTSD, it doesn’t mean you just have to live with it. In recent years, researchers from around the world have dramatically increased our understanding of what causes PTSD and how to treat it. Hundreds of thousands of Veterans have gotten treatment for PTSD—and treatment works.
Two types of treatment have been shown to be effective for treating PTSD: counseling and medication. Professional counseling can help you understand your thoughts and discover ways to cope with your feelings. Medications, called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are used to help you feel less worried or sad.
In just a few months, these treatments can produce positive and meaningful changes in symptoms and quality of life. They can help you understand and change how you think about your trauma—and change how you react to stressful memories.
You may need to work with your doctor or counselor and try different types of treatment before finding the one that’s best for dealing with your PTSD symptoms.
Talking to others about the combat situation they survived is usually difficult for most veterans but it would be healthy to talk to your family and loved ones about PTSD and it's effects on you. This could also open the door to let them know about the traumatic events you suffered and allow them to support you in coping with the negative aspects of PTSD. You may also find other veterans in your area to talk to. Perhaps together you can support one another.