Checklist of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms for non-professionals

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Post-incident: PTSD or post-trauma stress?

ptsd symptoms - man with head in his hands

I've listed the 'post traumatic stress disorder' symptoms you may be experiencing if you've been involved in, or witnessed, a traumatic event.

If you suffer from these PTSD symptoms, please don't jump to the conclusion that you therefore have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder! Do read the rest of the pages in this article, so that I can help you to understand what may be going on for you and whether trauma counselling can help. You may also be interested in my page: Signs and symptoms of a nervous breakdown.

Perhaps I can reassure you enough so that you don't even need to find out whether or not you need any treatment.

I've written all of my pages with terms that are more likely to relate to everyone. These terms may not always be those a professional would use.

10 Common symptoms of PTSD

  1. Images of the traumatic event coming to mind against your will
  2. Recurrent nightmares - you may even delay going to bed, fearful of sleep, until you're absolutely exhausted 
  3. Flashbacks - suddenly feeling as if you were in the middle of the event again - reality just disappears (one of the most distressing PTSD symptoms)
  4. Intense distress when confronted with reminders of the trauma, you feel out of control of your feelings
  5. Stress, anxiety and panic
  6. Avoiding anything associated with the event, for example - can't watch that programme, go down that road, read a newspaper, watch a news bulletin - just in case...
  7. Inability to recall significant parts of the trauma
  8. Feeling detached from others as if you're trapped in a 'bubble' and can't ‘connect with people
  9. Feeling numb (see above)
  10. Having little interest in the things you used to enjoy - you can't 'be bothered'

These symptoms, however distressing, are normal immediately after a traumatic event. No trauma counselling needed in this instance.

I'd only be concerned for you so quickly after the trauma if you had an acute stress reaction. This would be a continued overwhelming feeling of panic with a high level of distress. You'd feel your heart thumping and your breathing would be shallow and fast.

In this case some early professional help, which you might call trauma counselling, would be a good idea.

What exactly is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

ptsd symptoms - abstract black and white, sharp points

The diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder needs to be made by a mental health professional.

PTSD is diagnosed by way of an assessment with the use of a recognised questionnaire. Examples include the Impact of Events Scale or the Post-Trauma Check List. A face-to-face consultation would also take place.

The results are then measured against the specific criteria set out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSMv).

However, as a counsellor, it matters much more to me how distressed you are. How the PTSD symptoms are affecting you personally is more important than whether or not you fit the precise ‘label’ of PTSD.

I do appreciate though that in some cases the diagnosis can be really important as it may enable you to access appropriate services much more quickly. Also your insurance or health service may then cover the cost of treatment.

Come with me now to Part 2 for a look at 14 of the most common Signs of PTSD, and for my advice on when it's time to seek help.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

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