Common Problems for People with PTSD

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What are Common Problems with PTSD and Intrusion

PTSD generally follows a major trauma such as a natural disaster, a serious car accident or the death of a loved one. It produces a number of symptoms which can be divided into three basic groups: intrusion, avoidance and hyperarousal. Here are some of the challenges people with PTSD may face with intrusive symptoms:

  • PTSD often affects memory and may cause flashbacks. These take the person back to the time of the trauma and they experience the horror all over again. A smell, sight or sound associated with the trauma often acts as a trigger for a flashback and the person may start to avoid places that set off a flashback.
  • If the PTSD was caused by rape or sexual or physical abuse, the person may have problems with physical touch. This is seen by an overreaction to a friendly pat or embrace and can cause people to back away from them, especially if they don’t understand what is causing their reaction.
  • If the trauma involved the death of anyone, the person may feel misplaced guilt that they survived while others did not. This can be overwhelming and unexpected.
  • PTSD can cause physical symptoms, meaning higher medical bills which add to the person’s overall stress.

What are Common Problems with PTSD and Avoidance

Avoidance in PTSD is characterized by emotional and relational difficulties:

  • Family members of a person suffering from PTSD may lose patience with them after a while. This is often caused by their withdrawal and inability to cope with daily life. The divorce rate is higher in homes where one of the partners is affected by PTSD.
  • Alcohol and drug use often increases dramatically when a person is suffering from PTSD. The person may increase their usage or they may start using for the first time. While alcohol may numb the effects of the PTSD, it is a form of avoidance and certainly not a cure. In fact alcohol and drug use will only add to the problem at the end of the day.
  • Some people with PTSD find they become apathetic and unorganised and are unable to cope with basic chores such as shopping, cooking and gardening.
  • Depression may result as a person realizes that they are not coping, yet seem unable to do anything about it.

What are Common Problems with PTSD and Hyperarousal

PTSD can affect person’s ability to work. They often have problems concentrating and may have emotional outbursts that cause upsets with work colleagues.

  • Sufferers of PTSD find it hard to control their emotions and may become verbally or physically abusive to those around them, so losing potential support from family and friends.
  • PTSD can cause a whole range of physical symptoms including stomach problems, back pain, palpitations and generalized aches.
  • Hyperarousal may result in nightmares and insomnia.
  • A person with PTSD often startles easily and overreacts to a something simple like a person walking through a door unexpectedly or coming up behind them.

When looking at what are common problems with PTSD are, it is important to remember that they can be divided into three broad groups. While some of the symptoms overlap, it is fairly easy to recognise them as being related to PTSD and to then take steps to deal with them.


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for Dummies, Mark Goulston, Wiley Publishing 2008