| Most Popular Article Of The Week:


PTSD: Common Symptoms, Effective Solutions, and Ways to Support the Sufferer


Photo: Shutterstock

PTSD’s impact on mental health still hasn’t hit mainstream understanding. However, as we learn more about symptomology, we begin to see a few more common signs that someone may be impacted by a traumatic experience, such as anxiety, addiction, depression, irritability, negativity, risky behavior, sleeping problems, disinterest in things that used to bring joy, and being withdrawn or triggered by smell, sound, or memory to name a few.

Are you or a loved one suffering from PTSD? Here are some common symptoms:

Symptom #1: Sensory Triggers 

Our senses do a great job of alerting us to danger. For instance, we smell milk to see if it is spoiled and recoil if it smells off. Often a trauma event is linked to a particular smell. A common smell is that of gunfire. However, a pneumatic nail gun also smells like gunfire. This could trigger a flashback or a body sensation of tenseness or anxiety. Other things like perfumes or deodorants can do the same thing. 

Suggested Solution:

The limbic system (emotional center) of the brain is triggered by smell and induces positive and negative memories. Instead, grab an essential oil that is grounding, such as lavender or chamomile. It will trigger a relaxation response when you are triggered by smell. 

Symptom #2: Hypervigilance 

Hypervigilance is a state of alertness. If you find yourself tense in public, scanning your surroundings for threats or exits, you might be experiencing hypervigilance. Avoiding people and places can also be a sign of hypervigilance. Notice what your body is telling you—do you tense up in public, does your heart race, or do your hands get sweaty? This could be a hypervigilant response to your environment. 

Suggested Solution:
Instead, engage in some guided positive relaxation prior to going out into public. You can easily include some yoga stretches to help impact your vagus nerve (nervous system superhighway) and head out of the home in a more relaxed state to begin with. If you find yourself becoming hypervigilant, using long exhaled breathing and positive mantras to help you out. 

Symptom #3: Sleep Issues

Having problems sleeping is a hallmark of PTSD. Sometimes, you can’t turn your brain off to fall asleep, or you wake up from a nightmare or in a state of panic. Emerging research suggests cortisol levels may be to blame for these kinds of symptoms. Cortisol, the stress hormone, doesn’t allow our bodies to fall asleep. Cortisol is trying to find the threat, even at night. Additionally, our minds are trying to process events and emotions at night, which can account for the nightmares. 

Suggested Solution:

Try doing some breathing exercises before bed or when you wake up. Your heart is tied directly to your breath. If your heart is beating more than 100BPMs, it will kick in adrenaline and cortisol, and then you are in fight-or-flight mode before bed. Sleep is elusive at that point. Instead, slow down your heart rate by using long, slow exhales (exhaling slows down your heart rate) for about 10 minutes. 

Want more mindfulness in your life? Sign up now for our newsletter! 

Here are three tips to help manage PTSD and advice for how loved ones can support someone struggling with it:

Tip #1: Seek Appropriate Trauma Counseling 

Let’s face it, not all therapists are skilled in trauma work. So, it is important to dig a little deeper into your selection of a therapist who is skilled in trauma work. There are several types of evidenced-based trauma treatment available, so make sure you ask the therapist, “What type of trauma therapy are you trained in and skilled in?” Ask the therapist if they have had any supervision for their trauma therapy skill set. Ask about the length of their training and find out if they completed the program. You would be surprised to learn that not all therapists are fully trained with supervision components for trauma therapy.  

Tip #2: Keep Your Thinking Brain Online All Day

There are many ways you can work on reducing your stress response and dialing down your nervous system. One easy way to keep your thinking brain online is to keep cortisol levels in check. Make sure to eat protein every two hours. This will not only stabilize your blood sugar but will also fuel your brain’s neurotransmitters. Stable blood sugar will keep your fight-or-flight in check and not trigger adrenaline or cortisol.  

Tip #3: Validate Your Loved One’s Emotions

If you support a loved one who has been through a trauma, it’s important to validate their lived experience and emotions around that experience. Instead of telling that individual to “get over it” or engaging in argumentative behavior about it, take a step back and ask the person how you can assist them. Better yet, reflect back on how the person is feeling and support their emotional expression. Encourage them to seek help in such a way that is supportive, not punitive, and certainly not during an argument.

Looking for more self-care tips? Check out The 5 Building Blocks to Resilience.

About The Author
Dr. Teralyn Sell

Dr. Teralyn Sell is a psychotherapist and brain health expert who helps career-driven women who are overwhelmed by anxiety and panic attacks get off and stay off medication and put an end to the symptoms with a natural approach. She works to help balance their brain chemistry and permanently change their behavior so that they can rediscover their motivation, build their confidence and get their life back on track. She’s also the co-founder of ProRecoveryRx, a supplement line helping people improve mood naturally, and even overcome addiction.