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5 Physical Symptoms of PTSD You Don't Hear About

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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be debilitating. It causes many distressing psychological and emotional symptoms, but did you know that it causes many physical symptoms as well?

• What is PTSD?

Here are some physical symptoms that PTSD might cause:

1. Hyperacusis

According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, hyperacusis is an increased sensitivity to everyday sounds. This is where normal volume sounds such as someone typing, speaking or chopping up vegetables can be perceived as too loud and overpowering. People with PTSD can develop this condition from changes in their brain’s auditory processing centre.

How to help: Look into Retraining Therapy (TRT) for hyperacusis if your symptoms affect your quality of life. In the meantime, I would try to get good quality sleep and avoid excessive use of earplugs because it can make hyperacusis worse over time.

2.Tense, sore muscles

Fight or flight mode is a primal defense mechanism that prepares the body for physical threats. People with PTSD can often experience fight or flight mode when faced with triggers and distressing situations, which can cause their muscles to tense up. Repeated encounters with triggers that set off this defense mechanism can keep their bodies tense, operating on high alert, without giving their muscles time to relax.

How to help: Go for some massage therapy. Apply heating pads to tense areas. Try a warm epsom salt bath to relieve aches and pains. (Bonus: put 10 drops of lavender essential oil in to relax your mind as well!)

3. Jaw clenching, tightness and pain

Jaw tightness might arise from face muscles tensing up. Most people don’t notice their jaw tightening up until it causes them pain. Jaw tightness can cause you to clench your jaw or grind your teeth (either while awake or asleep) causing pain and discomfort.

How to help: Try massaging your jaw when you feel tightness and focus on releasing tension. You can add heat if you find it helpful. If you grind your teeth at night, look into getting a custom mouth guard to wear during sleep to protect your teeth.

4. Digestive issues

In fight or flight mode, the body sometimes slows down it’s digestive system to conserve energy. This can cause constipation, bloating, gas, heartburn and other issues.

How to help: Make sure to stay hydrated throughout the day because increased water intake might help your digestive system speed up. A balanced diet might also help keep your system running smoothly.

5. Exhaustion/fatigue

Having a body in a constant state of hyperarousal can take a lot of energy out of you. It is also very stressful to deal with triggers and the psychological symptoms of PTSD. It is no mystery why many PTSD survivors struggle with tiredness and exhaustion.

How to help: Dedicate at least an hour each day for “me time” to give yourself some much needed self-care and relaxation.

Unsplash photo via Mar Newell 

Originally published: October 6, 2017
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