PTSD - How Do You Know If You Have It - Or Not

I'm told PTSD is having traumatic events replay over and over - but what if it's not a single event - what if it's an entire lifetime's abuse and bullying that is constantly being triggered and replaying over and over - is that the same thing?    Is there a measure of intensity?     Do you just get used to it?      What is the qualifier?

  • Before I realised I was on the spectrum I thought I 'only' had PTSD of some form. Perhaps 'complex PTSD'. I truly wouldn't know how to answer your questions - they are great questions, but probably best answered by a pro of some sort.

    I liked Mind's descriptions: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd-and-complex-ptsd/about-ptsd/ 

    On the one hand, remembering negative experiences could be classed as 'learning' because it helps in a literal sense to avoid repeating something harmful (like burning your hand on a hot plate).

    On the other hand, if it's causing distress, this sounds like something more. When is it 'PTSD'? My guess is when it feels like it's a 'disorder', and not resolving or helping in some way. Whether PTSD is the 'right' label or not probably matters less than seeking support if you feel you need it / want it.

    Sometimes it helps to know what the opposite or alternate of something is to find out what defines it. PTGO is a term even most medical professionals don't know about: Sometimes a negative event can push us to do something constructive / good / beneficial etc... - this would be PTGO, post-traumatic GROWTH ORDER. This only happens when the person has overcome the trauma, and can be confused with trying to look like they have overcome it and try to force something good out of it too soon. Charities are sometimes founded after someone's PTGO.

    I do believe I had PTSD for a while, but don't know if I still do. I think I did because I had flashbacks that overlaid what I was seeing in front of me. It was a bit like when a photo is double exposed except in video form - I could see what was happening in the now, which was nothing even interesting, and then I could see traumatic events of the past. Both felt as real as each other. It certainly felt very distressing and confusing at the time. Working with a therapist helped me, but I couldn't say exactly what helped or when, I just know those flashbacks have stopped and many things feel easier and better now. I think the flashbacks were triggered by a significant change in my life.

    Good luck, hope this helps.

  • I can only speak from personal experience, Plastic. 

    For me, it is triggered by external and internal stimuli. Fearful reactions to external stimuli associated with the past trauma. For me, it can be any external images, words, people... anything that either has a connection to the past event(s) or to which I have made new fearful connections.

    Also, internal feelings, mental imagery and thoughts can also generate the same fearful reactions.

    As a real example, I very narrowly avoided being murdered by a partner well over 20 years ago. It's enough now for anyone who behaves in any way like he did, says similar words to him, or even wears similar clothing to him to trigger memories of the traumatic period. By triggering, I mean setting off a chain of visual images, fearful mental movies, depressive thoughts and surges in anxiety.  Once it begins, it can also build and maintain momentum by feeding off the remembrance of other unpleasant events, large or small. 

  • Banging on doors, and the word lazy triggers me. 

  • Once it begins, it builds and maintains momentum by feeding off the remembrance of other unpleasant events, large or small. 

    That's what I'm thinking - it's a cascade mode.    I've been nearly killed about 9 times so far - I mean literally dodging death by microseconds (flying near misses and traffic accidents) or by not being killed enough - massive seizure and anaphylaxis etc.  

    I think you collect traumas until it all overloads.

    But how is a level measured?

  • Forgive me for asking - but how intense is it?        What do you experience in the moment?

  • It's measured by the effect it has on your ability to function in daily life.

    For me, when the PTSD is at its most intense, I am not able to move. Anxiety courses through my body and paralyses my body and mind. At its least intense, I withdraw, become fearful and usually go to bed.

  • I know there’s something called c-ptsd which means complex post traumatic stress disorder I haven’t read up on it at all really but the small snippets I have read to me suggest it’s something caused by a series of small events on someone’s life built up over time causing stress rather than something massive happening very quickly like a kidnapping or NDE or going to war if you know what I mean

  • It's odd, I read a fiction novel a few weeks ago. The hero had a mother with Borderline Personality Disorder and he had PTSD. It was so well described that I realised it rang huge bells for me with my mother's behaviour and the things I do and think e.g. hypervigilant, very anxious, scared of upsetting people etc. So that is what made me realise. Well done author!

  • Yeah - the modification of behaviours to avoid triggers.    I find I'm getting incredibly tired - almost like once triggered, it immediately flattens the battery - 100 to 0 instantly.  

    Like the brain overload just switches me off.

  • The need to escape at all cost even death, so I sleep if I can to escape it, 

    I am normally super depressed when people try to get me out of my room and I am exhausted with the world, I experience the door thumping and the word lazy that for some reason is repeated continuously.

    I just want to be left alone when I am depressed.