March 6, 2023

Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

People often associate PTSD with those who worked in the military, due to being subjected to intense stress and trauma, like witnessing a severely wounded friend or hearing gunshots too often and too closely. But the truth is, PTSD can affect anybody, from employees to grocers to babysitters.

PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition that develops after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Characterized by the presence of intense, persistent, and distressing memories or thoughts of a traumatic event, PTSD can have a profound impact on a person's life and well-being, affecting their daily activities, relationships, and quality of life.  

This condition is more common than you might think, affecting millions of people worldwide.

Understanding What PTSD Is

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be due to any traumatic event that causes intense fear, helplessness, or horror. This can include natural disasters, serious accidents, acts of violence, sexual or physical assault, and military combat.

PTSD can cause a range of symptoms, including intrusive thoughts and memories, nightmares, avoidance behaviours, and feelings of hopelessness and guilt. The symptoms can interfere with daily activities, making it difficult for individuals to work, socialize, and maintain relationships. PTSD can also cause physical symptoms, such as increased heart rate, sweating, and rapid breathing.

What are the 5 Signs of PTSD?

1. Intrusive Thoughts

People with PTSD may experience intrusive thoughts or memories of the traumatic event that cause them distress. These thoughts may come in the form of flashbacks, nightmares, or vivid memories that can feel very real.

2. Avoidance

Avoiding things that remind them of traumatic events, such as certain places, people, or activities are typically what people with PTSD do. They may also avoid talking about their experiences or feelings related to the event.

3. Negative Changes in Mood and Thoughts

People with PTSD may also experience changes in their mood, such as feelings of anger, guilt, or hopelessness, or negative changes in their thoughts, such as self-blame or a diminished sense of self-worth.

4. Arousal and Reactivity

Having trouble sleeping or concentrating, feeling irritable or easily startled, or engaging in reckless or self-destructive behaviour are among the things people with PTSD suffer from.

5. Hyper-vigilance

Lastly, people with PTSD may be constantly on edge, feeling as if they are in danger even when there is no immediate threat. They may be easily startled and have an overly heightened sense of awareness.

Which is the Biggest Symptom of PTSD?

The biggest symptom of PTSD would be the presence of intrusive thoughts and memories of the traumatic event, as these can be extremely distressing and can interfere with daily activities. These thoughts and memories make it difficult to work, socialize, and maintain relationships. Intrusive thoughts and memories can also cause physical symptoms, such as increased heart rate, sweating, and rapid breathing.

What are Some Unusual Signs of PTSD?

While the above symptoms are the most common, some people with PTSD may experience other symptoms that are less well-known. These can include physical symptoms, such as:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Stomach problems

People with PTSD may also experience emotional numbing and a sense of detachment from others. They may also have trouble expressing emotions and feeling emotionally connected to others.

What Does PTSD Do to a Person?

PTSD can have a profound impact on a person's life and well-being. It can affect their daily activities, relationships, and quality of life. People with PTSD may have trouble sleeping, concentrating, and managing their emotions. They may also feel hopeless, guilty, and ashamed. PTSD can also cause physical symptoms, such as increased heart rate, sweating, and rapid breathing.

How Do You Confirm If You Have PTSD?

If you suspect that you may have PTSD, it’s important to speak with a mental health professional. A psychologist can conduct a thorough evaluation to determine if you have PTSD. The assessment will typically include a clinical interview to review current and past psychological problems.  

During the clinical interview, you will be asked questions by the therapist about the traumatic event, the symptoms observed, and your overall mental and emotional well-being. The mental health assessment may include standardized questionnaires and assessments that are designed to diagnose PTSD specifically.

In some cases, a physical exam may also be performed to rule out any other medical conditions that may be contributing to your presumed PTSD symptoms. Always be honest and open with your therapist about your symptoms and experiences to ensure the accuracy of the diagnosis and develop a treatment plan that’s tailored to your specific needs.

How to Deal with Post-traumatic Stress Triggers?

Dealing with post-traumatic stress triggers can be challenging, but there are several strategies that can help. The first step is to identify your triggers and understand what causes them.  

This may involve reflecting on your experiences and considering what situations or events cause you to feel distressed or overwhelmed. Once you have identified your triggers, you can develop a plan to manage them.

1. Managing triggers

This is a process that can take some time, but it's worth the effort. It's important to remember that you don't have to do this alone; there are people who want you, including your friends and family members. You can also reach out for professional support if necessary.

2. Avoiding triggers

As much as possible, avoid situations that trigger your PTSD symptoms--for example, if loud noises make it hard for you to think clearly or feel safe at work or school, then avoid spending a lot of time in an open office space with many people around. At some point, you may work with a psychologist to learn to tolerate these triggers by using an evidence-based treatment.

3. Building resilience

Try doing things that make sense of the world, so we feel more secure and confident in ourselves again after experiencing trauma--like going outside into nature; exercising regularly; eating healthy foods; spending time with loved ones who make us laugh; getting enough sleep every night (this one is especially important!). These things help build up our resilience against future challenges so we're ready when they come along!

Finding Professional Help

There are a number of mental health professionals who can help you. These include:

  • First Responder Program, Archways has psychologists with specialized training in the treatment of PTSD and other conditions related to trauma. They work with both uniformed and non-uniformed first responders using a trauma-informed model to help individuals build resilience, cope with symptoms and stressors, and foster post-traumatic growth
  • Psychiatrists, who prescribe medication and may also offer therapy
  • Psychologists, who can diagnose and use talk therapy to treat your symptoms
  • Social workers and other therapists, whose focus is often on helping people cope with their daily lives and relationships


As you begin to manage your triggers, you will want to have a list of resources at hand. Here are some websites and books that may be helpful:

You can also find support groups online or in person like Archways by searching for "PTSD" on Facebook or other social media sites, as well as through local hospitals or mental health clinics that offer services related to PTSD treatment options.

Ultimately, dealing with post-traumatic stress takes time and patience, but with the right tools and support, it is possible to manage your symptoms and live a fulfilling life. It is important to seek help and not be afraid to ask for support. Remember that healing is a process and that it is okay to take things one step at a time.

In summary, PTSD is a complex and sometimes debilitating condition that can profoundly impact a person's life. While it can be challenging to live with PTSD, there are effective treatments and strategies available to manage its symptoms. It’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of PTSD and to seek help if you believe that you or someone you know may be experiencing it.  

If you’re struggling with PTSD, reach out to a mental health professional, such as a psychologist. Evidence-based treatment is the best treatment for those who suffer from PTSD so that they start their healing process and regain a sense of control over their lives. Reach out to Archways at (519) 472-6612.