6 signs of PTSD and will I get it?
PTSD or post traumatic stress disorder, is a condition that affects those who have experienced traumatic events in their lives.
You often think of emergency services personnel, but it can affect anyone from victims of sexual abuse to car accidents and natural disasters.
People suffering from PTSD can often see the story of a memory as a very intense feeling. It can be set off by a number of things including sight, smell and sounds.
The logical side of your brain will shut down and send out danger signals – indicating your flight or fight needs to kick in
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So the feeling of these memories can be so intense for some, that they may even believe it’s happening in front of them. It could cause them to become what seems from the outside as irrational, enraged or even scared and taking action on events that are not occurring.
Signs of PTSD
There are some key things doctors look for when assessing for PTSD:
- recurring memories and flashbacks
- avoidance of triggers
- depression, loneliness or extreme moodiness
- aggressive or reckless behaviour
- trouble concentrating
It’s no secret now that your brain has the ability to change over time. There are many things that can impact how it changes and stress is just one of them.
Under stress your brain learns to react by sending out chemical responses (initiating adrenaline surges in the fight or flight moments). In situations where you are trained to the point of muscle memory, scientist believe that your brain will have trouble turning these muscle memory reactions off.
Think about soldiers with loud noises, they are taught to stay low in battle. They may then drop to the ground with a car backfiring back at home.
Whats the science behind it?
In your brain you have two hippocampi (singular). A small seahorse shaped area in the middle of your brain. They are responsible for memories and navigation, and can also be used for decision-making processes in conflict situations.
Imagine the damage it would case if they were damaged.
The amygdala is the part of the brain which sends out the stress signals to the body.
And lastly, cortisol – a stress hormone, is normally used to reduce the levels of adrenaline in the body, but strangely many people who suffer with PTSD also have low cortisol levels (something your genetics determine).
There has been studies that show those who suffer with PTSD have smaller hippocampus than those who do not. But it has become the chicken or the egg debate as to which happens first. Are you at higher risk of PTSD because you genetically have smaller hippocampus? or does your hippocampus shrink in the same way it can grow?
Will I get PTSD?
The big question on scientists minds is if we can work out who will get PTSD and who will not. The answer is still being searched for. There is evidence to suggest mothers who experience PTSD may pass on a more reactive stress response to their babies.
There are some steps that can be taken to reduce the affects and set yourself up on the right foot to begin with.
Seek help from medical professionals. If you don’t like the care team you have, then look for someone who suits your personality and job role (military, fire, paramedic etc.).
Explore all resources There are many different resources available both online and face to face. Including meetings, art therapy, surf lessons and more.
Build a strong support network, those who recover best are surrounded by family and friends.
Explore new interests, as you heal, find some new exciting things to try – hiking, surfing, painting, pottery.
If you or anyone you know needs help, please contact a health care professional or use these resources below: