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14 Songs That Describe These 5 Classic Symptoms of PTSD

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While music isn’t a “cure” for mental illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), oftentimes it can perfectly describe what it’s like to live with them. We wanted to know which songs describe what it’s like to live with PTSD symptoms, so we turned to our community to share songs that represent their experience with five classic PTSD symptoms: panic attacks, hypervigilance, insomnia, flashbacks and emotional numbness. In addition to their song recommendations, we included definitions of each symptom so you can share with a loved one who may not understand. 

• What is PTSD?

Here’s what our community shared with us:

1. Panic Attacks

A panic attack is an abrupt onset of fear or discomfort that lasts a few minutes and typically includes symptoms like struggling to breathe, a pounding heart, sweating, feeling dizzy, experiencing chills and nausea.

Don’t Let Me Get Me” by Pink

“My shame voice shrieks during panic attacks about how what I went through then and what I’m feeling now are all my fault. [I relate to the lyrics,] ’I’m my own worst enemy… don’t let me get me.’” — Kara D.

“Avalanche” by Flyleaf

“Makes people know I’m dancing through an avalanche of emotions and struggles and need time to fight through on my own.” — Katlyn D.

“The Day I Tried to Live” by Soundgarden

“Requires decent headphones for the proper experience as there is some interesting mixing of sounds and usage of stereo that captures the feeling of punctuated disorientation that is life with panic attacks. The lyrics, while not directly about life with PTSD and panic, express a frustration and alienation that really connects with how I feel — particularly in terms of the struggle to find self-acceptance in a hostile world.” — Rich A.

2. Hypervigilance

Hypervigilance is a PTSD symptom characterized by a constant state of alertness to detect potential threats. Hypervigilance is typically a response to a traumatic experience.

Speed of Pain” by Marilyn Manson

“It’s pretty loaded [with] hypervigilance. The [lyrics] have all the connotations of insomnia, intrusive memories, being unable to function or enjoy things and ironically spending every day trapped in some perverse Groundhog Day watching opportunities fall away and being powerless to escape.” — Amanda B.

“Sound of Madness” by Shinedown

“It sounds like ‘madness,’ it looks like chaos, it feels like war. Every day, every moment, without fail, I observe through the lens of danger.” — Sarah H.

“Control” by Halsey

“‘I paced around for hours on empty

I jumped at the slightest of sounds 

And I couldn’t stand the person inside me

 I turned all the mirrors around.’

[I have] PTSD from childhood sexual abuse. These lyrics always hit close to home for me.” — Amber L.

3. Insomnia

Insomnia is a symptom characterized by extreme difficulty falling or staying asleep. People with PTSD who experience nightmares may struggle with insomnia.

Unwell” by Matchbox Twenty 

“This song just screams everything about PTSD to me. I’m not ‘crazy…’ But I feel like it… I often look or act like it. Talking to myself in my sleep — usually begging some higher power to just let me rest for one night of peace. One night to feel like me again. The ‘me’ I was before PTSD moved in.” — Tara S.

Aberdeen” by Cage the Elephant

“It’s not necessarily because of the lyrics, it’s the overall tone. So much longing and angst. I once told a friend, ‘If any song describes what it sounds like to be inside my head, this is it.’” — Hillary W.

“Afraid of the Dark” by Beyond the Black

“Because I feel the darkness inside reflecting the darkness around me when I’m trying to sleep. The darkness inside can be a scary thing to fight.” — Ruby A.

4. Flashbacks

A typical PTSD flashback is characterized by a sudden onset re-experiencing of a traumatic event in an individual’s life. Flashbacks can involve experiencing visuals or sounds present at the time of the traumatic event, like hearing an attacker’s voice or the sound of screeching tires.

Hurricane” by I Prevail

“It is just spot on for what it feels like when a flashback hits and the pain and confusion that encompasses those moments. For me, it’s just comforting to have a song put into words what I’m feeling when I can’t explain it myself.” — Katie S.

“Fall Away” by Twenty One Pilots

“Sums up how I start to feel as those feelings come to the surface. I’ve had these same flashbacks for over 25 years and it still scares me when it creeps up out of nowhere.” — Jenna C.

Crawling” by Linkin Park

’Crawling in my skin,

These wounds, they will not heal.

Fear is how I fall,

Confusing what is real’

Reminds me of when my PTSD was undiagnosed and at its worst. It was a struggle just to get through the day. I wanted out of my skin. The flashbacks were so vivid, I would get confused with reality… I couldn’t sleep and feared it, because of flashbacks and nightmares.” — Taylor R.

5. Emotional Numbness

Emotional numbness is a state of feeling “empty,” like your emotional reserves are completely depleted. People with PTSD who struggle with feeling “numb” may feel distant from others or lost interest in activities they once enjoyed.

“One Last Breath” by Creed

“I try to desperately hold on to anything to feel safe, but at the end I still feel unsafe and numb. ‘Please come now I think I’m falling/ I’m holding on to all I think is safe…’” — Jeannette B.

“Cleaning Out My Closet” by Eminem

“The way he describes his mother is my mother to a ’T.’ I have PTSD due to childhood trauma and almost all of it stems from my mother and her drug problem.” — Francilia B.

If you live with PTSD and are struggling with symptoms like flashbacks or insomnia, you’re not alone. To connect with people who have been there, download our free app and post a Thought or Question with the hashtag #TraumaSurvivors.

What’s your go-to PTSD song? Let us know in the comments. 

Originally published: July 3, 2019
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