The Physical & Psychological Toll Of PTSD

The Physical & Psychological Toll Of PTSD

Based on research from the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, anxiety disorders are the most prominent mental illness in the country. In any given year, approximately 9% of Canadian men and 16% of Canadian women are affected. Anxiety disorders can include generalized anxiety disorder, which accounts for just shy of 2% of all anxiety disorders, panic disorder (0.7%), obsessive-compulsive disorder (1.8%), specific phobias (6%-8%), social phobias (6.7%), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The only difference between these is that there is very little data available on PTSD. As a result, prevalence rates can range from roughly 1% to over 35% of the Canadian population. 

But why is that?

For the most part, PTSD is widely misunderstood and often misdiagnosed as many of the symptoms can be connected to other physical or mental illnesses. Furthermore, there are widespread misconceptions that only those who work in dangerous lines of work — emergency first responders, war veterans, police officers — can have PTSD. On the contrary; PTSD can affect anyone and can be the result of a wide range of traumas including (but not limited to) living through a natural disaster, physical or emotional abuse, a major accident of some kind, or even bearing witness to any of these. 

Many symptoms of PTSD can severely affect one’s ability to function emotionally or cognitively on a day-to-day basis. From its impact on one’s emotional state to the physical symptoms, PTSD can severely limit a person’s functionality in easily quantifiable ways. The trick is knowing what to look for.

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

The psychological symptoms most commonly associated with PTSD can include:

  • Re-experiencing the traumatic event 
    • Vivid flashbacks to the event itself
    • Reliving traumatic thoughts and perceptions from the incident
    • Frequent nightmares where one relives the incident
    • Severe psychological distress when exposed to certain triggers
  • Feeling numb and disconnected
    • Active avoidance of thoughts, feelings, or conversations around trauma
    • Active avoidance of people or places that elicit memories of the traumatic incident
    • Inability to remember details about the incident
    • Less interest in participating in activities
    • Limited ability to feel strong emotions such as love
  • Increased mental stimulation
    • Difficulty sleeping/falling asleep
    • Irritability 
    • Rage
    • Hypervigilance 
    • Difficulty focusing
    • Easily startled

However, there is also a myriad of physical symptoms that need to be considered alongside these behavioral concerns. Quite often, this is where misdiagnosis occurs. The physical symptoms that can be associated with PTSD include, but are not limited to: 

  • Headaches
  • Migraines 
  • Digestive issues
  • Dizziness
  • Dissociation 
  • Derealization
  • Muscle tension

What’s more is that PTSD can have lasting, long-term physical effects if left untreated that are not considered symptoms, such as: 

None of this even addresses the detrimental impact PTSD can have on those with preexisting conditions such as arthritis, reproductive issues, digestive issues, or diabetes. This is all on top of other long-term social and psychological issues such as: 

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Social isolation and withdrawal
  • Decreased ability to have successful interpersonal relationships
  • Separation or divorce
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors

Why This Poses A Problem

When it comes to diagnosis, the symptoms most commonly associated with PTSD — dissociation, flashbacks, reliving of trauma, depression, anxiety — are often the only symptoms considered. What’s more is that symptoms of PTSD, the physical and psychological, can take months or even years after the traumatic incident to become noticeable. What’s more is that they’re grouped into four characteristic categories

  1. Intrusive memories
  2. Avoidance
  3. Negative changes in thinking and mood
  4. Changes in physical and emotional reactions

These categories coupled with the very damaging myths about PTSD often lead to misdiagnosis. When we think about the rate at which people report traumatic incidents such as sexual assault, physical abuse, emotional abuse, or even the stigma around issues such as depression and anxiety disorders, some of the most insidious symptoms of the condition often go unreported, with patients reluctant to discuss such issues. As such, if there are physical symptoms such as exhaustion, headaches, or dizziness, those are often treated before the underlying cause.

It’s important to remember that these symptoms are not just “in your head”, and that PTSD can affect people of all walks of life. The physical and psychological symptoms of PTSD are very real, and their long-term impact, especially if untreated, can be devastating. 

At Share Lawyers, we understand the mental and physical impact of post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as the toll it can take on your life and your livelihood. We know that PTSD, along with many other mental illnesses, may be dismissed. But the toll of PTSD is very real and puts individuals in precarious and dangerous situations every day. We have made it our mission to fight for those in need.

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