When most of us think of post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, it’s usually about significant life events.
For instance, the hurricane that your family experienced when you were a child. Or that car accident you had in your 20s.
However, it’s possible to experience PTSD from other life events that are less dramatic but still impactful. Perhaps you didn’t feel safe at home or in your neighborhood growing up, or you experienced bullying at school.
Now, as an adult, you experience problems that you can’t explain. Have you considered that it may be PTSD?
Here are five telltale signs of PTSD that many individuals overlook.
1. Trying to Avoid Life
One of the signs of PTSD is avoidance. Avoidance occurs when you try to either remove yourself from (or avoid entirely) specific situations that you might encounter in your life, such as:
- You avoid driving by the street corner where you got into a car accident last year.
- When you go shopping, you plan your trip to avoid crowds because they make you anxious.
- If you hear a particular song playing, you switch channels or turn it off immediately.
- You do your best to avoid interacting with specific people because they remind you of painful memories.
When avoidance gets to a point where it significantly interferes with your life, that might be a sign you have PTSD.
2. Trouble Focusing or Concentrating
Another one of the signs of PTSD is when you struggle to focus or concentrate on tasks, including:
- Performing tasks at work
- Completing homework or being attentive in class
- Driving your car
- Paying attention to the conversation you’re having with someone else
The reason you have trouble is that your mind is bringing you back to the trauma you experienced. When this happens, you are reliving the trauma — or, at least, you relive the emotions.
Intrusive thoughts bring you back to those traumatic events. Sometimes you can’t put your finger on it — like something is nagging you in the back of your head.
3. Hyperarousal and Always Feeling on Edge
One of the issues connected to PTSD is that those experiences threatened your sense of physical and emotional safety. Many people stay in a state of hyperarousal after those events occur. This state of being is when you are always on the lookout for threats to your safety, real or imagined.
The result is that you feel jumpy, anxious, and are always on edge expecting something terrible to happen. You feel frightened when you hear a sudden, loud noise. Or, you are on guard when navigating a crowd. You can’t explain why you feel this way — but the reason could be PTSD.
4. Taking Unnecessary Risks
Risk is an interesting concept in our society. For example, we might watch videos of adventure athletes who engage in risky behavior, such as skydiving or rock climbing. Yet, we don’t see in those videos the preparation and training these athletes do beforehand.
Often, those who have lived through trauma won’t hesitate to take spontaneous risks. Some individuals expose themselves to great danger for no apparent reason, such as:
- Getting angry while driving, then increasing speed or weaving in-and-out of traffic
- Drinking while driving
- Engaging in dangerous drug use, such as sharing needles or using harmful street drugs with the potential to overdose
- Participating in risky sexual behavior
People who engage in these types of behaviors have no regard for the safety of themselves or others at that moment.
5. Inability to Trust
One of the essential aspects of building and forming relationships is trust. This aspect is real whether you are making your network of professional connections or connecting with friends, family, and romantic partners.
But trauma can rob you of your ability to trust others. From a psychological level, your brain wants to protect your body from further harm. But that doesn’t work well in our modern society. The result is that you retreat inward and become more isolated.
Although you may not have experienced “major” trauma in your life, even smaller life events can have a significant impact. These signs of PTSD are not only a personal burden, but they also interfere with the quality of your life.
One helpful solution is therapy. Getting help for PTSD usually requires professional support to understand why this is happening and manage trauma. Contact me today to find out how I can help with your PTSD, or visit my Anxiety Counseling page to learn more.