Insight into Abnormal PTSD Behaviors and What Can Be Done to Help

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Recognizing Abnormal Behaviors of PTSD

PTSD can affect any age group and is caused by exposure to a traumatic event such as serious injury, rape, abuse or a near-death experience. The lingering effects of PTSD are commonly seen in the altered behavior patterns of the person. These patterns are abnormal and can be a source of much distress to sufferers and their families.

Common abnormal behaviors of PTSD include the following:

  • Recurring recollections of the event that are intrusive and distressing.
  • Recurrent nightmares about the event.
  • Feeling as though the event is recurring and re-experiencing the same physical and emotional reactions.
  • Intense distress when an object or memory triggers thoughts of the event.
  • The person may go to great lengths to avoid thoughts, feelings or conversations that relate to the trauma.
  • In some cases, part of the trauma may be blocked from memory.
  • Lack of interest in normal daily activities that were once enjoyed.
  • Feeling detached from reality.
  • Problems with sleeping, concentrating, anger management and showing emotion.
  • Exaggerated startle response.

These abnormal behaviors of PTSD need to have been present for at least a month for a diagnosis of the condition to be made.

Treatment of Abnormal Behaviors of PTSD

Post traumatic stress disorder can be treated by a number of methods depending on the person’s age, degree of trauma and family circumstances. A combination approach often works well with medication relieving anxiety while cognitive behavioral therapy works on the root of the problem.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an approach that normally extends over a number of weeks. The therapist initially asks the person a number of questions to determine how the trauma has affected their daily life and changed their behavior patterns. The answers will guide them in setting up a treatment program. CBT may include the following:

  • Asking the person to relive the experience and to relate it to the therapist in the present tense. A discussion time follows where the therapist will ask how it felt and if the process was better or worse than expected.
  • Cognitive restructuring involves correcting wrong beliefs about the event. These often include feelings of guilt and responsibility for what happened.
  • Updating memories of the trauma involves recounting a memory such as, ‘I thought my arm had been cut off,’ and replacing it with the actual outcome – ‘My arm needed surgery but now I have full use of it.’
  • The therapist may accompany the person to the site of the trauma and have them retrace their steps while talking through the events as they unfolded.
  • Looking at clothing worn on the day of the event or listening to a recording of sounds similar to those heard during an attack or accident can help reduce the trauma by putting it in a new context.
  • A family session may be beneficial to all those involved directly or indirectly with the trauma.

Medication is often used as it can reduce anxiety levels while the person is undergoing CBT. Antidepressants are commonly prescribed with Prozac and Zoloft being popular choices. It may be necessary to continue with medication for at least a year to reap the full benefits.

Abnormal behaviors of PTSD affect individuals and families in many different ways and can be severely debilitating if professional help is not sought. The symptoms can be relieved and in many cases the sufferer can go on to lead a normal life again.


Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Patrick Smith, Sean Perrin, William Yule and David M Clark, Routledge, 2010