Knowing how to spot trauma and PTSD is the first step in enabling you to get help for yourself and in encouraging those you love to seek help. This is very important because trauma does not heal by itself.
We all have upsetting events, stresses, and worries that affect us for a short period of time. Some of the reactions we have to those upsets may match some of the signs of trauma. The difference is that those reactions-sleeplessness, fatigue, irritability, etc.-will go away after a few weeks. But when these symptoms go on for over a month, then this could be a sign that you are suffering from a trauma.
Whereas time can heal some stressful events, it does not heal trauma. In fact, the symptoms of trauma may not even surface until several weeks, months, or years after a traumatic event took place. This time lag between the traumatic event and the onset of symptoms may prevent us from recognizing the trauma event as the source of our sudden outbursts of anger, sleeplessness, anxiety, panic, etc.
But even knowing the signs of trauma may not help to release the grip of denial. Since the symptoms of trauma are usually painful physically and emotionally, a part of us does not want to acknowledge just how damaging the effects are on us and on our families. To face the traumas makes us think that we will have to relive these events over again and rehash the suffering of the past. So rather than face that prospect, a part of the brain prevents us from admitting that we are suffering from the past in the present.
Denial is particularly prevalent in returning veterans with PTSD-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. There is a culture of denial fostered in the military. In this way of thinking, to admit to suffering from trauma is to admit to being weak. It’s better to “soldier up” than admit you have a problem and seek help. So returning vets rarely seek help and hope the feelings will go away with time. But as we’ve seen, they do not.
11 Signs of Trauma and PTSD
- Trying to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations about the traumatic events. This can also be an aversion to talking about certain topics and shying away from situations.
- Staying away from places or people for no reason.
- Having difficulty remembering either specific traumas or segments of time in your life.
- A loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed.
- Feeling separate from others or withdrawing in groups.
- Having trouble feeling positive feelings, such as happiness or love.
- Having feelings and thoughts of distress or impending doom.
- Frequently having upsetting thoughts or memories.
- Having recurring nightmares.
- Acting or feeling as though a traumatic event is happening again-a “flashback.”
- Physical pains and stresses that appear over and over again for no apparent reason.
Knowing the signs of trauma and PTSD will allow you to help the returning vets face the agony they are in and look for help. When vets are caught in denial, they suffer and their families suffer. Trauma has a way of destroying marriages and families. Pointing out the damage they are doing to their families can be the best strategy in encouraging them to seek help. What they won’t do for themselves, they will do for their spouses and children.
If you or a loved one displays four or more of the 11 signs of trauma and PTSD, then seek help. Trauma is probably present. One thing we know for sure about trauma: It will not heal with time and does not go away on its own. Seek help now.