In light of the tragedy at the Colorado Movie Theater, I felt it was important to briefly address warning signs and symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I want to remind people that while working through the physical symptoms of PTSD are important, the relational sides of it; dealing with forgiveness, trust, and love, are at least equally important. Most of this article will address the signs and symptoms of PTSD, as addressing the relational aspects, especially in Christian counseling, become easier once you have an understanding about why someone is acting or feeling the way they are.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can cause many symptoms that are normally grouped into three categories. These are re-experiencing, avoidance, and hyperarousal symptoms. There is no way to know ahead of time how one person will experience a traumatic event or to what degree the symptoms will show. What is important to know is that, no matter how subtle, or strong, the PTSD symptoms are, getting help is very important.
1. Re-experiencing symptoms
Re-experiencing symptoms are just what they sound like. Sometimes they come as flashbacks where a person relives the trauma over and over again, including physical symptoms like sweating or heart racing. Other symptoms of this category are bad dreams, or frightening thoughts, that can cause trouble sleeping at night or concentrating during the day. These symptoms may cause problems in a person’s everyday routine and can be triggered by simple events or words that do not seem connected to the original event.
2. Avoidance symptoms
Avoidance symptoms happen when there is more of a shut down in a person. They include staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience, feeling emotionally numb, or strong feelings of guilt, depression or worry. Symptoms of this category can also include losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past; or even having trouble remembering the event and can be triggered months or years later. These symptoms may cause a person to change their personal routine. An example of this is a person who after a bad car accident might avoid driving or riding in cars where once their everyday life included driving.
3. Hyperarousal symptoms
Becoming hyperaroused is a person’s attempt to avoid a traumatic event again. Hyperarousal may exponentially increase a person’s awareness in certain areas while narrowing their awareness in others areas that it makes them startle easily or have overly strong angry outbursts. They might also feel tense, on edge, or have a difficult time sleeping due to not being able to settle down. Hyperarousal symptoms are usually constant; unlike others that are typically triggered by events. They can make the person feel stressed or angry for no obvious reason. These symptoms may make it hard to do daily tasks, including sleeping, eating, or concentrating.
It is important to remember that having some of these symptoms after a traumatic or dangerous event is natural. Some times the symptoms will go away after a few weeks. If that happens, you are dealing with Acute Stress Disorder. It is when these symptoms are persistent, and last more than 30 days, or they surface weeks or months later, that a person might be looking at Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Especially in this case, quality Christian counseling is very important. PTSD, when not treated correctly, can drastically impact a person’s quality of life and relationships. PTSD can be so serious that symptoms of PTSD can also be seen in people in relationships with people with PTSD; so seeking professional help is important.
Christian Counseling Solution for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
In my time working as a Christian counselor, in private practice, I have worked with many people dealing with PTSD. In many cases it is as a result of sexual abuse in their pasts and in other cases it is due to traumatic experiences such as accidents where there is injury involved. In all the cases, working to understand what happened, how it was experienced, what was believed to be true or untrue, and how it has effected relationships has been very effective in helping people recover and get back to the lives they were meant to live.
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