Common symptoms of PTSD include upsetting memories, nightmares, anxiety, and difficulty controlling emotions. Symptoms can be mild or severe, depending on several factors, such as the person's ability to cope with stress, how serious the trauma was, and what kind of support is available. By recognizing the effects of PTSD and knowing more about the signs and symptoms of this disorder, a person can make better decisions regarding treatment.
During a trauma, survivors often become overwhelmed with fear. Soon after the traumatic experience, they may re-experience the trauma, both mentally and physically. Because this can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful, survivors tend to avoid reminders of the trauma. These symptoms create a problem that is called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a specific set of problems resulting from a traumatic experience and is recognized by medical and mental health professionals.
How serious the PTSD symptoms and problems are depends on many things, including:
- The person's life experiences before the trauma
- The person's natural ability to cope with stress
- How serious the trauma was
- What kind of help and support a person gets from family, friends, and professionals immediately following the trauma.
Because most trauma survivors are not familiar with how trauma affects people, they often have trouble understanding what is happening to them. They may think the trauma is their fault, that they are going crazy, or that there is something wrong with them because other people who experienced the trauma don't appear to have the same problems. Survivors may turn to drugs or alcohol to make themselves feel better. They may turn away from friends and family who don't seem to understand. They may not know what to do to get better.