Hello, my name is Johanna, and I welcome you to the Johanna Draconis - The deconstruction of c-PTSD podcast.
In this episode we will go over a short overview of PTSD and its symptoms, just so we are all on the same page.
The concept PTSD
The first thing you really need to know about PTSD or post traumatic stress disorder, is, that its an umbrella term for a very broad array of severity of symptoms and consequences.
It’s like calling everything from a cold up to lung cancer, lung deceases. That means, that the person who had a car crash gets basically the same diagnosis like the person who suffered decades of abuse.
Which then ~can~ lead to some confusion in your social environment, why the way your are healing varies from the other person they know with the same diagnosis.
But no matter to which end of the spectrum you belong to, the core of it all is pretty simple: Your brain can’t sort the trauma in its boxes, therefor it can not be resolved and therefor it remains an issue.
Depending on the extreme, length, state of psychological stability, social environment, etc the size of the trauma varies and so does the severity of the trauma.
I will differentiate mainly between PTSD, c-PTSD and PTS. Though I will usually use the term PTSD, unless I want to specify anything.
PTSD is usually based on a short-term trauma, either in the past or recently. It is usually a singular event and can vary in form strength of the trauma.
For example Accidents, loss of someone, witnessing death, assault, etc.
C-PTSD or complex PTSD is usually trauma over a longer period of time and/or extreme forms of traumas. Strong symptoms and usually not considered curable.
For example years of childhood abuse or strong abusive relationships.
PTS is mostly an add on to c-PTSD, its the post torture syndrome. It has additional symptoms and difficulties. I would also consider rape depending on what happened to this category.
As the name suggests it usually caused by torture, but not only people in professional torturers hands suffer from torture. But to this topic we talk about more in another episode.
Before we get into the symptoms, I just want to say a few things:
Firstly, remember that a child is more easily traumatized than an adult. What would be no trauma for an adult, can be a trauma to a child.
Take that into consideration, when remembering things form the past or dealing with traumatized children.
I also expect that war influences the groups, as it is an extreme form of situation and therefor affects the brain. I include in the war segment EVERYONE who was affected by the war environment.
That means the soldiers that fought there, the person that witnessed something, the person who had things happen to them and so on.
Secondly, the description I use are VERY basic and just there as an overview.
And most IMPORTANTLY: NO! DON’T compare your trauma with the trauma of other people. Your suffering is as valid as any other suffering. That same goes for their suffering.
Just because the neighbor broke both of his legs and you just one, that doesn’t make your pain any less painful or real. Don’t compare. It will lead you to nowhere, as nothing really can be gained this way.
This is about reducing the suffering that is caused by this nightmare, nothing else.
The (15) symptoms of PTSD
What are the symptoms people usually have? The intensity of the symptoms varies from person and day to day. Not everyone has every symptoms.
So depending on the person and their variation of PTSD, here we have 15 Symptoms and side effects of PTSD:
1. First off we have Restlessness, a feeling of ‘you can’t really find peace’. Its like something is nagging you and you can’t really point at it. Its just there. It just really makes you uncomfortable.
Like an itch you can’t really locate and scratch.
2. Sleeping problems (aka insomnia), as the name suggest, it’s when you have trouble sleeping, despite being really tired, having trouble to wake up and/or to sleep without breaks.
That leads to rather unusual sleeping patterns, sometimes even complete inverted. It makes you over time feel like a living undead. I can only recommend to try to get any sleep you can.
3. Difficulty concentrating, be it reading or trying to focus on something, etc. Concentrating can become basically impossible.
This means that thinking becomes really hard... but to be honest that also could be because of the lack of sleep and the stress. Either way this causes a lot of headache!
In my experience it even went to a point when reading was for me an almost impossible task. I just couldn’t focus. Not even kid books!
4. Nightmares - and I mean the really bad ones. Good thing is you can learn to control those dreams. Not that they change to normal dreams, but you are no longer lost in the dream.
For me it was loads of death, monsters and so on. They were like horror movies. You know those where basically no one survives? A stuffed animal helps me separate dream from reality.
5. Emotional instability, it means you tear up more easily, get upset for little reason and overall feel like you are in an emotional roller coaster and the lack of sleep and the enormous stress surely isn’t really helping.
Those strong emotions happen for no apparent reason. This also includes angry outbursts and feeling of complete sadness over a small thing.
Ever felt like not really being in control of your life? Someone else controlling your body? This might be the reason.
6. FEAR and with that I mean the whole package: anxiety attacks, panic attacks, heart racing, etc. Without any “REAL” reason. A constant feeling of fear and/or being afraid.
At one point I felt like I would die from all the fear I felt. Felt like a deer hunted by a wolf… or a monster.
7. Hallucination as in seeing something that isn’t really there. Usually it is something specific and not just anything. The more you are at your limit, the more likely you see it.
The good thing is, whatever you are seeing has meaning. Try to figure out what and they usually disappear. Hopefully. Sometimes though just to be replaced by another one.
8. Flashbacks - when you are forced to remember something you didn’t really have intention to remember. Sometimes accompanied by pain, stress, emotional strong reactions, etc.
Which basically means your brain can - so to speak - no longer contain the trauma and the trauma is ‘spilling over’ and you see aspects or moments of it.
9. Triggered behavior, a reaction with strong stress, emotionally strong, for no apparent reason. Seemingly out of nowhere. It can be done by sounds, smell, touch or seeing something. Basically by any of your senses.
These triggers are connected to your trauma. This can be helpful, but we get to that in a later episode.
10. Physical symptoms - this includes things, like sweating, pain, sick or trembling. Once again for no apparent reason. It just shows that something is wrong. Its like you have a malfunctioning body.
It is usually mostly annoying and confusing in my opinion, but it adds to the stress.
11. Evading of specifics things, that could trigger you. As much as I approve of it while recovering from a bad day, it’s overall a bad move. The more you avoid it, the stronger the reaction and the trigger will be.
This can also occur subconscious. So you surrounding might have noticed and might bring this to your attention.
12. Sadly all of this often lead also to destructive behavior, like drug usage, self harm or alcohol. Because people are trying to find a way to deal with the situation.
I understand that, but sadly it makes the situation only worse. As most substances increase psychological instability.
Don’t try to get rid both at the same time, that is too much. And try to get help. See if you can reduce it as far as you can and replace it with a harmless addiction (sports, games, etc.) to get you away from it.
But please don’t shy away from trying to get help. Speaking about it alone can be an enormous help.
13. Often PTSD is accompanied by other illnesses, like for example most of the time a form of eating disorders accompany it. Depression is usually along for the ride, but so are also impulse disorders.
In my experience, once your PTSD gets better, the side illnesses also get better. Because the origin of those side illnesses IS the PTSD.
14. And Chest pain. It strength going from a dull pain to unbearable painful. In my experiences the pain raises the worse your PTSD is. A good warning sign you are getting a bad phase again.
That was my strongest symptom. It felt like I was eating alive by those bugs from the mummy, but I just couldn’t die. I just felt this agonizing pain. Like someone was ripping my ribcage open.
Later is became only a normal pain, like if I ran too much. But even now I occasionally get a slight pain and I know I have to dial it back, to prevent bad things from happening.
15. Last but definitely not least. All of this also often leads to the breakdown of social environment, which further weakens you. It’s hard to keep relationships and friendships alive during those trying time.
But loosing them makes it only worse. Which can lead to Isolation. I know I don’t have to say t his, but try to keep your friendships alive….
But most importantly: Don’t overdo yourself and get worse from it. Friendships can be rekindled and people understand if you can do less at the time. Just contact them once in a while, when you can.
The most important symptoms
For me one of the most important symptom is still the restlessness, as its usually the earliest sign, that something is wrong. Even often before PTSD usually fully unfolds.
Therefor its a great warning sign, even if you have it, its great for warning you for a dip that is about to happen.
It’s like you are being hunted and in danger, but you don’t know form where the threat is coming from. Always on the edge, no deep relaxation and deep down the knowledge, something is there. And its not friendly.
In this stage the full PTSD might not have happened yet and treatment is much easier.
Though I didn’t really have flashbacks, these are among the most important symptoms too.
If you keep remembering something or MORE IMPORTANTLY; If you start seeing something, that isn’t there, thats one clear red flag that there is something the brain REALLY needs to work on.
Because if you try to sub press the memory, its like one of these pool float boards, the more you push it down and the more you put force on it, the stronger it will skyrocket up and go straight in your face.
Therefor the flashbacks and the hallucinations will get worse and more extreme, the more you ignore them. Which is why you should try to figure out what to do as soon as you can.
To be honest it’s not really hard to find out that you have PTSD once you know that your symptoms are pointing that way and you are honest with yourself.
One big point, especially for people who their tormentor is someone forbidden, like the mother or so, is that they deny that it ever happened.
Sometimes its impressive how far the denial can go. Even when presented with pictures it can be ignored.
Additionally they were usually taught/ told from early on, that they were imagining things and/or that no one would believe and/or that they deserve what is happening to them.
The biggest enemy and getting support
I will be honest with you, especially if you had such a conditioning, the biggest enemy for you is yourself. As the mind under PTSD has very self destructive tendencies.
For example: If you heal too fast, your brain will reset that change to back before, if not even more, as it doesn’t want to change anything, even if that means, that it would get better and survive.
Our brain is an amazing thing, who helps us survive the impossible, but with PTSD and some other cases, it is sabotaging the healing.
Its like having a translator who really wants to sabotage you, like a false friend would. Though in truth it has more to do, that the brain is trying to stay alive, but the mechanism it uses have the opposite effect.
An important part of getting rid of PTSD is to reteach the brain several things. Yes, the brain can be taught things.
It’s also not very great that it is not easy to get good help, as in sometimes you literally can’t. They won’t let you. Sometimes they just don’t exist… anymore. Some even prey on the victims.
Some like to use them for themselves and their purposes. Some sell snake oil to the desperate. Pretty much the most disgusting thing I know people do.
But it doesn’t always has to be professional help, alone having someone to talk is immensely helpful. Not just about the PTSD stuff, but overall. Just to talk to someone about your daily worries is very good.
I joined a forum where other PTSD sufferer were, who simply understood the sentence “I am so happy, I could do the dishes today!” and knew what an achievement that can be.
It felt so good to finally have someone understand your feelings.
But everyone is different. Seek the form of communication you feel most comfortable with.
I know it can be really hard to keep up friendship during these confusing times, but just do what you can. Also take care that you don’t overburden yourself.
This is a marathon, not a sprint. So take a deep breath and go steady. You will get there eventually.
And that was it for today and the overview of PTSD and its symptoms. I hope it helped you and cleared up a few thing. Thank you for listening. Next time I will go to the heart of the issue and talk about trauma.
Hope you liked this episode and leave me some feedback. Also you can visit me on johannadraconis.com.
Watch yourselves and have a wonderful time.