A Common PTSD Sign: Re-Experiencing the Event

Re-Experiencing the Event

Trauma survivors commonly re-experience the event. This means that someone with the symptoms of PTSD experiences the same mental, emotional, and physical experiences that occurred during or just after the trauma. These PTSD symptoms can include:
  • Upsetting memories, such as images or thoughts about the trauma
  • Feeling as if the trauma is happening again (flashbacks)
  • Bad dreams and nightmares
  • Getting upset when reminded about the trauma (by something the person sees, hears, feels, smells, or tastes)
  • Anxiety or fear or feeling in danger again
  • Anger or aggressive feelings and feeling the need to defend oneself
  • Trouble controlling emotions because reminders lead to sudden anxiety or anger
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking clearly.
People also can have physical PTSD symptoms, such as:
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Feeling agitated and constantly on the lookout for danger
  • Getting startled by loud noises or someone coming up on you from behind when you don't expect it
  • Feeling shaky and sweaty
  • Having your heart pound
  • Having trouble breathing.
The survivor usually can't control these symptoms or stop them from happening.
Because trauma survivors have these upsetting feelings when they feel stress or are reminded of their trauma, they often act as if they are in danger again. They might get overly concerned about staying safe in situations that are not truly dangerous. For example, a person living in a safe neighborhood might still feel that he has to have an alarm system, double locks on the door, a locked fence, and a guard dog. Because traumatized people often feel like they are in danger even when they are not, they may be overly aggressive and lash out to protect themselves when there is no need. For example, a person who was attacked might be quick to yell at or hit someone who seems to be threatening.
Re-experiencing PTSD symptoms is a sign that the body and mind are actively struggling to cope with the traumatic experience. These symptoms are automatic, learned responses to trauma reminders. The trauma has become associated with many things so that when the person experiences these things, he or she is reminded of the event and feels that he or she is in danger again. It is also possible that re-experiencing symptoms is actually a part of the mind's attempt to make sense of what has happened.
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