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Is Anger a Warning Sign of PTSD? Exploring PTSD Symptoms and Red Flags

Angry bird (photo: David Knox)
Angry bird (photo: David Knox)

PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health disorder brought on by the onset of some form of trauma. 

These are usually the after-effects of an accident or a life-threatening situation that gets too overwhelming to process. Such events can happen at any time, whether at home or traveling.

The symptoms or red flags of PTSD are consistent with those of other mental illnesses like anxiety and depression, and therefore can be hard to diagnose in some people.

Listed below are four red flags/symptoms that a person experiencing symptoms of PTSD could display. BetterHelp is a reliable website you can visit to learn more.

1. Feeling Extra Irritable

One of the first noticeable red flags of PTSD is feeling an emotion to the extreme, especially anger. 

Anger is believed to be one of the earliest warnings of PTSD, as it can be used as a defense mechanism to avoid feeling any other triggering emotions. 

It is thought to be a hyperarousal symptom of PTSD. It is the most common response to trauma and often goes unnoticed. 

For people experiencing symptoms of PTSD, one of the most noticeable adverse effects of anger can be that it becomes the default response to all kinds of life stressors, making them feel stuck in a loop they cannot escape. 

Some other subcategories of anger that can be considered warning signs are explosive reactions to unexpected situations, trouble sleeping, and engaging in risky behavior. 

Therapy and lifestyle changes are among the several treatments of how one can try controlling this symptom.

2. Selective Amnesia

Selective amnesia is a defense mechanism of the brain to protect itself from triggering memories, often resulting from some form of violence. 

It is considered a survival mechanism based on the concept of dissociation or disconnection. 

This form of amnesia could be considered both a symptom and a cure for people living with PTSD. 

Contrary to popular belief, patients of PTSD who experience dissociative amnesia are not any less traumatized. 

The aftereffects of this form of amnesia often present themselves in other activities in their daily lives, like substance abuse and engaging in risky sexual behavior. 

Dissociative amnesia is not permanent, and unknowingly being exposed repeatedly to triggering events, people, or even words can push someone over the edge. 

This could potentially result in those terrifying memories coming back uncontrollably, which can have severe side effects. 

On the other hand, in an event where a person has experienced extreme PTSD, selective amnesia could be one of the best forms of therapy. 

Inducing this form of amnesia has even potentially cured some patients. 

Dissociative amnesia is a serious treatment decision and, medically, is considered a last resort. 

Some other ways to try controlling PTSD symptoms are cognitive therapy, psychotherapy, and written exposure therapy.

3. Physical Symptoms

PTSD is considered an illness of the mind, and it can sometimes be hard to diagnose. 

People living with PTSD may not always show regular signs associated with the illness, like flashbacks and nightmares. 

Research shows that the symptoms of many patients with PTSD start with physical manifestations. 

Some physical warning signs to look out for are chronic pains in the joints or lower back, digestion issues, ringing ears, aggravated skin issues, and icy hands and feet. 

Frequent aches are usually the telltale physical sign of a person experiencing this disorder. 

High cortisol levels (associated with PTSD) deplete your adrenal glands, which results in increased sensitivity to pain. 

Anxiety can also be a significant contributor to aches, as muscles tense up when one is anxious. 

For many people, an essential step in getting on the road to controlling the physical symptoms of PTSD is to try getting stress and anxiety under control. 

There are various therapies offered for this, like psychotherapy, family therapy, and cognitive therapy, among other resources.

Related: Backpacking as Therapy – 10 Best Hiking Trails in USA

4. Insomnia

Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders globally, affecting 10% to 30% of the general population. 

It can be a symptom of various mental illnesses, making it difficult to pin it as a symptom for just one. 

Like anger and irritability, insomnia is considered a hyperarousal symptom of PTSD. 

Hyperarousal can be described as a permanent feeling of being on edge. 

One of the reasons why insomnia is prevalent in people experiencing PTSD is because sleeping would mean not being in control. 

Letting the subconscious mind take the wheel is a scary thought, which is what keeps many people awake. 

Some PTSD patients describe insomnia not as the lack of sleepiness but the inability to calm down. 

Natural ways to induce sleep include essential oils and candles, reading, light exercise before bed, and any other methods recommended by a therapist according to a treatment plan.


This story is published in partnership with BetterHelp.

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