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18 'Red Flags' You Might Be Struggling With PTSD


Sometimes, when you’ve been through a traumatic event or an extended period of traumatic circumstances, it can be hard to get help for the symptoms that linger. Not every person who goes through trauma gets a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but for the people who do, there are often some tell-tale signs that indicated PTSD.

Although everyone’s personal “red flags” are different, we wanted to know how people recognized they were struggling with PTSD, so we asked our Mighty community to share one “red flag” that let them know they were likely struggling with PTSD.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. Hypervigilance. Suddenly I am overly aware of everything, and my emotions are on overload as well. I can become catatonic as my body gets overwhelmed and in that case, I cannot cry, or I can become a sobbing ball of grief — and everything in between. If anyone comes near me, I may jump/scream in fear. It’s horrible.” — Ginger G.

2. “Nightmares. I have had them every night without fail for the last five years. When I was diagnosed with PTSD, no amount of counseling or drugs could stop it. It takes me a while every morning to convince myself it was just a dream.” — Hannah B.

3. “Irritability. I would snap if say, my fiance gave me a different route to go, but I’d [freak] out because it scared me to think of a new path and change. I’ve been angry for a long time and finally have part of my life back.” — Kimberly T.

4. “I zone out when people are talking to me. Paranoia sets in with anxiety, night sweats with vivid dreams that feel like I can’t tell whether I’m a sleep or awake, insomnia from hell and I become irritable.” — Brandi J.

5. “Emotional flashbacks. Being transported in time to feeling like a petrified 5-year-old child. And then not being able to break free to the here and now.” — Lara C.

6. “Feeling like I’m underwater and need to run away from whatever triggered that reaction. Whether it’s a word or a person that reminds me of the situation.” — Shae P.

7. “I panic when people get near me, and I get graphic nightmares.” — Zed W.

8. “For me, I struggled the most with smells. Perfumes, alcohols, nail polish/remover, songs, grass and though it’s not a smell, when it was cold outside and if something wet touched me, I panicked and [had] flashbacks. Another huge red flag was being unable to focus at all on anything but what I had been through. I also didn’t want to leave my house because of my fear of running into any of my triggers on the random.” — Kyra O.

9. “When my emotions overwhelm me so much. I feel every emotion so deeply and can go through so many a day that I get triggered so easily and start catastrophizing everything.” — Roxanne B.

10. “I find if I am faced with having to make decisions and get pressured, I tend to flashback to past fears and trauma. Then I run and quit.” — Kathy N.

11. “I was scared of everything and everything was a trigger. I started getting help when I realized I couldn’t control the swirling in my head anymore. It was too much.” — Phaedra M.

12. “My body always gives it away when something is brewing. Headaches, neck tension, vision issues, heart palpitations, lump in my throat, etc. ‘The Body Keeps the Score’ is a great read about how the body stores trauma.” — Jodi N.

13. “Not being able to have any guy touch me without freaking out. Including my dad.” — Katie M.

14. “Feeling my heart race and [seeing] myself stop in fear when I heard harmless noises, like footsteps of people going up and down the stairs or walking past my room or the sound of voices outside the door. Flinching at sudden movements and loud noises.” — Hana J.

15. “My anxiety as well as social anxiety will start going through the roof. I know things are getting bad when I start biting my nails or the skin around my nails. I will have tons of sores and it almost hurts to move my fingers. I also tend to ‘pick’ at things, like scabs or a pimple. I will also start avoiding eye contact with pretty much everyone. Most of the time I don’t know I’m doing it until someone points it out to me.” — Chandra D.

16. “Insomnia. I can’t fall asleep even if I take sleeping medication… [I find myself] checking on locks and on my kids constantly at night to make sure they are OK.” — Meagan L.

17. “I start to withdraw more and avoid certain situations and types of people especially.” — Keegan L.

18. “I shut down and start getting irrational thoughts of the fears that ‘could be,’ especially with my oldest, my daughter. [I also experience] paranoia. And at times, my family suffers because of those fears. Sometimes I lose focus and I end up jumping from one thing to another and get so angry I cannot complete simple tasks.” — Ronica B.

Can you relate?

Thinkstock photo via openeyed11.