It’s normal to feel terrified after experiencing a brush with death. Major injuries, life-threatening illnesses, physical abuse, sexual assaults, terror attacks, acts of war, car accidents, or natural disasters can all cause stress, anxiety, and shock. With time, most people will recover from these symptoms on their own. But for others, traumatic events like these can trigger the onset of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

PTSD is a mental health condition that causes people to re-experience their trauma and feel intense fright even when they’re no longer in danger. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about 8 million Americans have struggled with PTSD at some point in their lives.

But how do you know if your response to a traumatic event is in the range of normal, or if you’re suffering from something more serious? Here are five signs to watch out for that could indicate you’re dealing with PTSD.

  1. Flashbacks

One of the defining symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder is the presence of flashbacks. More than just upsetting or intrusive thoughts, flashbacks are vivid, intense memories of the trauma that cause someone to feel as if they’re reliving it all over again, in the present moment. Flashbacks can also be accompanied by physical symptoms, such as sweating, heavy breathing, or a pounding heart. Re-experiencing the trauma in this way can interfere with a person’s ability to go about their daily life, and can sometimes be prompted by certain words, places, or sensations.

  1. Avoidance

Because symptoms can be triggered by specific people or places, a person who suffers from PTSD may avoid scenarios that remind them of their trauma. For example, people who have been in car accidents may avoid driving or riding in cars altogether. They may also refuse to talk about their feelings or the circumstances surrounding the event. Avoidance can sometimes be so severe that people with PTSD will change their entire daily routines just to steer clear of disturbing or troublesome reminders.

  1. Insomnia

PTSD can cause recurring nightmares, which often lead to sleepless nights. But the general stress and anxiety that accompany post-traumatic stress disorder can also lead to persistent insomnia, even without the presence of disturbing memories. Constant irritability and tense feelings can make it hard to concentrate or relax, and lack of sleep may exacerbate other symptoms.

  1. Mood swings

It’s common for someone with PTSD to experience outbursts of anger, followed by periods of intense fearfulness. Depression and anxiety often lead to feelings of helplessness, worthlessness, and loss of interest in once-beloved activities. Seemingly innocuous events can cause outsized reactions, and as a result, many people with PTSD withdraw from social situations completely.

  1. Self-destructive behavior

The pain of PTSD drives some people to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. According to research from the National Institute of Health, around half of people treated for a substance abuse disorder meet the criteria for current PTSD. In addition, people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder may be at a higher risk of suicide, particularly those who simultaneously struggle with symptoms of depression.

Get treatment for PTSD at Alvarado Parkway Institute

If you or a loved one is struggling to recover from a traumatic event, Alvarado Parkway Institute can help. Our PTSD treatment program offers individualized attention and care, including psychotherapy, medications, and group counseling. For those who struggle with co-occurring substance abuse disorders, we are also highly experienced in dual diagnosis treatment to help patients overcome both their trauma and their addiction.

For over 35 years, Alvarado Parkway Institute has been a trusted name in San Diego for mental health and addiction recovery. To find out more about how we can help you conquer your trauma and live healthy, productive life once more, call us at (619) 667-6125.