Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, can affect almost anybody who has suffered through a significant, traumatic or life-threatening event. Whether you’re the direct victim of physical abuse or a first-responder who has witnessed some horrific accidents, you may experience neurochemical changes in your brain that permanently alter your ability to cope with ordinary events or function normally.
How do you recognize the long-term effects of severe trauma? Long after any physical wounds have healed or a violent incident ended, trauma survivors may experience:
- Intrusive memories of the traumatic event that are deeply upsetting
- Flashbacks that cause them to relive their trauma all over again
- Problems sleeping because of the nightmares and night terrors related to their trauma
- Panic attacks or other severe emotional and physical reactions (like hyperventilating) to reminders (“triggers”) of their trauma
- Problems controlling their stress reactions, including a hyper-sensitive startle reaction
- Hyper-vigilance and scanning, as if they are always suspecting violence or some renewed attack
- Self-destructive behavior, like drinking or drug use, that may subdue their memories for a while
- Angry outbursts and difficulty regulating their emotions, particularly when triggered
- Trouble retaining friendships, romantic relationships or familial ties because of their outbursts, apathy or other emotional problems
- Suicidal thoughts and overtures, especially when distressed
- Memory issues, difficulty concentrating and problems completing organized tasks
- Panic attacks or a general avoidance of people, places or situations that could remind them of their trauma
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a pervasive illness that affects victims both bodily and mentally. Many are unable to work or can only function in very limited and controlled environments. If your PTSD prevents you from working, find out if you qualify for assistance through Social Security Disability.