Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event that has deeply affected you. While PTSD-triggered events are often associated with wartime combat, they can also include car crashes or other accidents, natural disasters, sexual assaults or other violet attacks. If you suffer from PTSD, you are one of about 5 million people in the United States who do.

These events seem to come out of nowhere to turn your life upside down. And the ripple effects extend to your family, friends and colleagues. It’s common to feel fear, anxiety, anger, guilt or sadness after a traumatic event. The world feels unpredictable and dangerous. It can take awhile to get back on your feet to feel normal again.

How do you know if you have PTSD?

Here are some symptoms to look for:

  1. You keep playing the disturbing memories over and over in your head. Sometimes these memories feel like a flashback in a horror movie. And you feel as if the event is actually taking place again.
  2. You have a physical reaction when you recall the traumatic event. Your heart beats wildly, you sweat profusely, you are unable to focus or remain calm. You feel out of control.
  3. You have recurring nightmares about the event. You may bolt upright in bed. You may cry out in your sleep. You may find your heart pounding and your brow sweating.
  4. You can’t get to sleep or you can’t stay asleep.
  5. You have irrational outbursts of anger. You’re irritable and grouchy for no apparent reason.
  6. You are constantly on red alert, wary of everything around you, afraid that danger is everywhere. You are always on guard, an exhausting state of being.
  7. You can’t feel happiness or other positive emotions, like love or contentment. You are simply so overcome by sadness or anxiety or fear that it’s difficult to find the positive feelings you would normally enjoy.
  8. You lack interest in the fun activities you used to do. You’ve lost your enthusiasm for things that used to bring you joy.

There’s plenty of hope for those who have PTSD. Professional therapists who understand trauma can help you get your life back. In cognitive therapy, you learn to understand how you think about the trauma that affected you. In exposure therapy, you learn to get control of your thoughts and feelings about the trauma. There is also group therapy. And you might want to consider family therapy since PTSD has ripple effects. There are also medications that can be helpful. Or you may find a combination of therapy and medication is best for you.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: