When a loved one experiences PTSD symptoms, they can be difficult to recognize. People often have a stylized and stereotyped idea of what someone with PTSD might look like.
It is normal to have upsetting and confusing thoughts after a trauma, but if they persist and interfere with daily life, it may be time to seek help.
Feelings of Guilt or Shame
Feelings of guilt or shame are common signs of PTSD. This is because the trauma you experienced caused you to believe you were responsible for the event, even though you were not. This is a part of your mind’s protective strategy and can be distressing.
You might also feel a sense of self-loathing or worthlessness. This can make it hard to form close relationships with others and affect your work life. You may find that you need help to focus on tasks or are easily startled.
If you feel this way, seeing your GP or cardiac rehab team is important. Getting help early on is important because PTSD can have long-term consequences for your health.
Guilt and shame differ from guilt and fear because guilt tends to be repair-oriented, while shame is more about self-worth. This is why people who feel guilty tend to be more empathetic towards others. One study found that volunteers who tended to be more guilty were better able to understand and identify others’ feelings than those who grew to be more shame-prone. This could explain why some symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder PTSD are associated with feeling less able to trust and let others in. It may also be why some people with PTSD have trouble maintaining relationships.
We all use avoidance behaviors at times – turning to a book, TV show, video game, or pleasant daydreaming session when we feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed can be a healthy escape. But when these coping mechanisms take precedence over socializing with friends or family, work, or other important daily tasks, they could be signs of PTSD.
Many people with PTSD try to distance themselves from situations or objects that bring up memories of the traumatic event. This can include avoiding certain people, places or activities and refusing to discuss the experience with others. This can lead to relationship problems, as it can be difficult for others to understand that the person they love is struggling.
When PTSD symptoms are combined with emotional avoidance, the symptoms can resemble those of anxiety disorders like panic attacks or anorexia. People with PTSD also often have an increased risk of heart conditions like atrial fibrillation and high blood pressure.
The most effective way to reduce anxiety is through exposure therapy. Practicing this technique, which exposes a person to a situation they fear, helps reduce long-term anxiety by teaching them that they can cope with the anxiety-provoking situation. Unfortunately, many people with PTSD use substance abuse to conceal feelings of anxiety, which can only exacerbate the problem. By ignoring these signs of PTSD, a person may end up having to face the feared problem anyways, and this can cause a heart attack or stroke.
Many people with PTSD experience flashbacks, which are vivid memories of a traumatic event. They can be scary and can feel like it’s happening again in the present. They can also cause feelings of rage, fear or numbness. Flashbacks can take the form of single images or a film, words or sounds, a smell or touch and physical sensations (like your heart beating faster or sweating). They can be so realistic that they bring you back into the experience and trigger the fight-or-flight response in your body.
Flashbacks can cause you to lose your connection to the current moment, a symptom of dissociation. Dissociation can range from feeling disconnected from your surroundings to losing your memory of the traumatic event. This can leave you feeling disconnected and disassociated from others, as well.
As a result, you may have difficulty communicating with others or feel detached and numb from your loved ones. It’s important to reach out for support and talk to a mental health professional about these symptoms to get help.
Getting plenty of sleep, practicing relaxation techniques, and staying away from drugs or alcohol are helpful coping mechanisms. It’s also beneficial to know what triggers your flashbacks to prevent them from occurring, such as avoiding places or objects that remind you of the traumatic event.
If you experience panic attacks frequently, they might be a sign of PTSD. Panic attacks are a combination of feelings, thoughts and behaviors that occur when the body is overexcited or under stress. These feelings can be hard to cope with and may interfere with daily life.
People with PTSD sometimes find that the triggers for their panic attacks are not obvious. For example, hearing a car backfire can remind them of battles they’ve been through or seeing a news report about a sexual assault they’ve experienced. The symptoms can last a month or more, making it difficult to function.
When a person has a panic attack, they can feel dizzy, uneasy and overwhelmed. They may also have difficulty breathing and feel like they are losing control. People with PTSD often try to hide their emotions, making them feel disconnected from others and even depressed.
Some common treatment methods include psychotherapy and medication. Medications can help reduce anxiety and physical agitation, while psychotherapy can assist with identifying and processing traumatic memories. Some alternative therapies, such as acupuncture and yoga, can also be helpful for those with PTSD. Regardless of the treatment, connecting with others, especially those who care about you, is important. Social interaction can help calm the nervous system and ease the lingering anxiety of PTSD.