Symptoms and Diagnosis of PTSD

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Mental illness and disorders are tough to explain, but their impact on your lives is enormous. Understanding the cause and the source of the symptoms are essential questions to be answered before concluding if one is suffering with it or not. It is good to get diagnosed if you are not sure.

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What Is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have witnessed traumatic events in their past like war veterans, rape victims and find it difficult to forget about them even though time has passed by.

The traumatic events may include life-dangering, unfortunate incidents like a severe accident, a terrorist act, a natural disaster, war/combat, kidnapping, sexual assault or even heinous crimes like rape, serious injury, or threatened death.

In simple terms, it is the inability to recover after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event in the past.

What Causes PTSD?

Traumatic Person

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops when a person is unable to process and move forward in their life after a very stressful, frightening or distressing event or a prolonged traumatic experience from the past. These events may haunt a person long after they are over.

The percentage of PTSD occurring in people who have experienced such severe trauma in their past is around 33%. Let’s understand the reasons behind PTSD briefly.

– Some with a history of depression, panic attacks, anxiety and other mental concerns may likely be prone to PTSD.

– A person experienced a traumatic event and did not receive adequate support from friends and family. 

– Genetically vulnerable people will have an increased probability of developing PTSD, especially if one parent or both have mental health issues. 

– PTSD can sometimes be a result of subconscious protecting the person from future traumatic experiences.

– High levels of adrenaline produced in the body may trigger reactions as people with PTSD have abnormal levels of stress hormones.

– Research says the size of the hippocampus in the brain may be smaller in PTSD patients. It may be because this particular part of the brain is related to fear, anxiety, memory issues and flashbacks.

Listed below are events that may lead a person to develop PTSD: 

– Serious accidents

– Extreme disasters

– Physical assault

– Sexual assault

– Sexual abuse

– Childhood abuse

– Domestic abuse

– Exposure to heinous crimes

– Traumatic events at work

– Serious health issues

– Miscarriage

– Experienced warlike conflict

– Severe physical and mental torture

What Are The Symptoms Of PTSD And How Does It Affect You?

Post-traumatic stress disorder may disrupt your life in many different areas like thinking, behaviour, mental and physical health, work-life, family-life, relationships and other day-to-day activities.

PTSD may disrupt the person’s ability to work and perform his daily activities in various ways, including

– Memory issues

– Lack of concentration

– Relationship conflicts with family members, friends, colleagues

– Fear

– Anxiety

– Panic attacks

– Emotional outbursts while at work

– Mood swings

– Flashbacks

– Increase the risk of other mental health disorders like depression  

– Substance abuse

– Intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to that experience that last long after the traumatic event has ended

– Fear of they may relive the event through flashbacks

– Nightmares

– Feel detached or estranged from other people.

The symptoms may be unbearable physically too, disturbed sleep along with hyperarousal, and anxiety all create physical tension and stress, which can damage your health

– Migraines

– Backaches

– Stomach aches

– Body aches

– Heightened reactivity to stimuli

The constant fear of living in that moment, the trauma that it may happen again takes away the precious present moments and joy from your life, making you feel low and maybe in a black hole. 

How Is PTSD Diagnosed?

The psychiatrist will usually assess and diagnose based on your history and prescribe medications (if needed) and therapy sessions. It is essential to attend the psychiatrist session with some written notes on past events/history or be accompanied by a trusted family member or friend who can describe the past events to ensure psychiatrist can make an accurate diagnosis. You may want to get assessed if your anxiety and stress from your past event (over one month) continues to still numb you or disable your functioning in your daily life.  Sometimes you may start therapy without a diagnosis of PTSD. Your therapist or counsellor may then refer you to a psychiatrist for further assessment. A counsellor or a psychotherapist is not competent to make an assessment or diagnosis. A psychiatrist or a psychologist usually makes assessment and diagnosis. Medication is prescribed by a psychiatrist only. The perfect diagnosis of PTSD may need to explore the act event and the impact it has made on you, with the accurate understanding of the possible threat of death, violence, serious injury or the genesis of the trouble. The questions may include questions about how you experienced the traumatic event, either directly or as a witness or did someone narrate it to you. How did all it start and how were you involved in that situation?  Psychotherapy technique like EMDR (Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing) is an effective treatment for PTSD. EMDR helps a person in a safe environment recall their past traumatic events and memories and process them through bilateral stimulation. EMDR facilitates alleviating affective distress. EMDR works holistically with behaviour, thinking, feelings and physiological responses and helps to reprocess negative beliefs associated with the event.  


It’s important to conclude by saying not all who experience traumatic events develop PTSD. It’s natural for most of us to experience sadness, anger, anxiety, stress and other feelings after a disturbing event.

It may just be some painful thoughts that you weren’t able to sleep last night or; it’s just a mild back pain because of the long-exhausted day you went through yesterday, it can be anything, so relax and give yourself another chance to overcome the moment. If after trying hard, you are not able to forget all that painful stuff, then maybe is the right time you should consider getting an appointment with a therapist.

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