The first of three categories of PTSD is “intrusive recollections”. These unwelcomed visitors of the mind are triggered by something that occurs that reminds them of an aspect of the trauma previously involving any of the 5 senses. Their current senses can connect to the traumatic past. These recollections come in the form of nightmares, flashbacks (daymares), emotional unrest or reactivity when being in a situation that reminds them of the original trauma.
Nightmares may be vivid, just similar or metaphoric, but leaves the person with the same feelings that they expected during the trauma; that of helplessness, fear, anger, grief and others. Trying to fall asleep or stay asleep can be a major problem which leads to consequences in how they manage their lives.
Another intrusive recollection is a flashback which is a sudden unwelcomed recollection of the incident where on some level, the individual leaves the present and goes back in time to the traumatic event. This is not just a remembering. The senses and emotions experienced in the past can be a re-experienced in the present. The survivor may even be acting in the present how they acted in response to the past traumatic event. The person is not going crazy or losing their mind! Rather, some traumatic material is breaking forward into the conscious mind.
A second category is numbing and avoiding, or even shutting down. It is a sort of self- administered anesthesia so as to protect one’s self from seemingly unbearable pain. Numbing or shutting down reserves emotional and physical energy that could have been used up in minutes by the brain and body’s response to the recollections. When triggered, some individuals have trained their brains to avoid retrieving of the memories by mentally going away. In this dissociative fog, all conscious knowledge of the here and now is temporarily gone. Avoidance makes perfect PTSD sense, but here again this can have consequences of its own to pay.
A third category is hyper arousal or anxiety which is the fight or flight response or sometimes freeze reaction. Here the brain chemistry and hormones take charge. The body goes into hyper alert state. Adrenaline pumps so that the individual can either fight or flight or both. What is in the digestive system may leave the body. Then, blood leaves the arms and legs so that more blood and oxygen can move to the head and torso so that the individual can think and move better. Freeze reactions occur when nor-adrenaline is pumped by the adrenals making it hard to move which can be very risky in some situations.
To sum it all up- the survivor (maybe you) experienced a traumatic event. That does not mean that the person has PTSD. If after a month the individual is still experiencing the three categories, then the survivor should seriously consider looking further into the option of asking for professional support by a certified Trauma Specialist; that might be me.