Today is PTSD awareness day. Can you name at least 5 signs of PTSD? Many can! With new awareness, outreach and community education many individuals are learning the signs and causes of PTSD.
What makes PTSD difficult to understand and notice are the uncommon symptoms that disguise themselves as anything other than PTSD. We at the Josh Dunne Organization, Mission Ready are committed to enhancing community knowledge and understanding of the common and not-so-common signs and symptoms of PTSD....let's talk about it!
1. Anger and hostility - everyone feels angry from time to time and it's completely normal to feel upset. But when it becomes a pattern or unusual tendencies for a person struggling with PTSD it's good to take a closer look. Has there been a trauma you experienced that you maybe thought, "It's not bothering me as much" or "that didn't affect me tremendously"? Sometimes the first sign is unexplainable irritability and usually towards those we trust and love. Multi-tasking, relationships, work, driving, reading or any activity that needs your undivided attention cause suddenly become overwhelming and result in anger and frustration.
2. Self-destructive behavior - and often times not intentionally. We don't want to hurt the people we care about so many times we are the inflictors of our own self-pain because of denial? fear? self-defeat/shame? Whatever the reason, it’s good to watch out for one another and notice signs of self-harm (cutting, burning etc.) even engaging in risky behaviors such as substance abuse, reckless/careless driving or other activities that can put oneself in harm’s way. Be gentle when having difficult conversations about self-harm, often they are driven by low self-esteem and shame; be careful not to blame – blame gets us nowhere.
3. Dissociative thoughts (sometimes flashbacks) – sometimes you don’t know why you started thinking about the possibility of using the Earth’s magnetic fields to support flying cars? But here you are! Maybe you were trying to read a book, watch a show or movie, listening to your family talk during dinner, or sitting in a meeting at work and your mind drifted away…far away. It’s ok and it’s another common sign of PTSD. Often times we refer to this as a ‘daydream’. But when a person has experienced trauma the brain cannot slow down, it must keep moving to keep you safe. It’s a biologically driven trait that serves a good purpose – too keep you safe; did I say that already? It’s important and very helpful because when we begin thinking about trauma it can become too intense and so your mind goes to “la-la land”, a daydream, a dissociative state. Sometimes it can impede daily functioning and it’s good to seek professional help with grounding or mindfulness exercises.
I want to go back and touch briefly on some of the common symptoms because often times they aren’t what you think.