Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: How does PTSD manifest itself?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: How does PTSD manifest itself?

If the symptoms of an acute stress reaction last for months or if new symptoms develop up to six months after the triggering event, this is referred to as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD is comparatively rare, which means that most people can survive a severely stressful event without any sequelae.

There is an increased risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder in people who have previously had a mental disorder such as depression or anxiety disorder and in those affected whose trauma is also associated with physical injuries.


Symptoms of PTSD

It is typical for the person affected to experience the traumatic situation over and over again – in the form of nightmares, fragments of memory, and even the feeling of being in the same place again and all psychological and physical symptoms such as horror, deep despair, (mortal) fear and to go through helplessness again.

Similar situations or only individual, harmless stimuli can evoke this state again: a smell, a specific formulation, clothing, a television report, or a slamming door.

  • The affected person increasingly avoids situations, thoughts, places and people that trigger such “flashbacks”, often resulting in him withdrawing more and more from normal everyday life.
  • On the other hand, normal responsiveness progressively dulls; the person affected cannot remember important aspects of the triggering event, and their interest in activities and fellow human beings wanes. He feels distanced from his surroundings; his emotional reactions are subdued – he can neither be happy nor mourn. The future often appears threatening or “overshadowed”.
  • Thirdly, the affected person is in a constant state of hyperarousal: He is very jumpy and irritable and tends to outbursts of anger, is often restless and “overly alert”, has trouble falling asleep and sleeping through the night and has difficulty concentrating.

PTSD: Restricted everyday life as a result

Due to the symptoms described, the lifestyle of a person who has PTSD is impaired. Many of those affected develop depression or psychosomatic illnesses such as pain syndromes and try to numb their fears with alcohol or other drugs.

The feelings of being at the mercy and helplessness, the inability to process what has happened and to be able to do something about the situation yourself, but also diffuse feelings of guilt are particularly difficult for those affected – not least because of this, the suicide rate is probably higher.


Altered body function due to PTSD

The “escape situation” is also reflected in the bodily functions – some hormones, such as CRH, adrenaline and noradrenaline, are increased, and others, such as cortisol, are reduced.

Many reflexes and the almond cores (amygdala) in the brain, a sensitive alarm system for our perception and the associated feelings, are permanently overactivated.


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