Tag Archive: signs


ptsd1

It is very natural and normal to have stress reactions after a traumatic or very upsetting event. Your behavior and emotions will change immediately afterwards and most people get better or find a ‘new normal’ after a few weeks. This is called acute PTSD. However, not everyone ‘gets over it’. As I discussed in the previous article PTSD, What is It? some people will have prolonged stress reactions to events and circumstances, most especially those that are more indicative of producing chronic PTSD. It is a real identifiable brain disorder (see picture).

ptsd2

Trauma causes REAL changes in the brain which can produce profound behavioral, emotional and physical symptoms. Please keep in mind as you read, the key to recognizing symptoms of PTSD is this: if it wasn’t there before a traumatic event happened and then appears, then there is a problem. If it was there before the traumatic event, then it most likely is not related to PTSD.

PTSD is generally diagnosed through presentation of 4 major types of symptoms that last longer than 3 months, cause you significant distress and disrupt your life and/or work.

Intrusion of the event into your life afterwards.
Recurrent recollections of the event. Memories coming back without warning with or without a ‘trigger’ (which I will discuss later)
Nightmares
Flashbacks/Reliving
These can make someone feel as though they are reliving the event in that MOMENT and can cause mental, emotional and physical symptoms. Some individuals with PTSD may experience and feel the same fears and horror as when the event took place.

Hyper Arousal/Feeling Keyed Up
Constantly on guard
Jittery/Jumpy
On Alert
Can’t relax
Can’t sleep

Numbing or Negative Changes in Beliefs and Feelings
Distancing self from people/Can’t trust other people
Unable to feel emotions
Forgetting about parts (suppression) or all of the traumatic experience
Not able to talk about the event
World becomes extremely dangerous
Depression/Anger/Irritability/Impending sense of doom

Avoidance:
Fear based and avoidance behavior typically involve all three of the above symptoms in order to avoid having to deal with the original trauma or prevent the above symptoms from occurring. Avoidance behavior is also another way of dealing with ‘triggers’. Often, people with PTSD will avoid people, places and things that remind them of the original trauma. Some people will get ‘super busy’ as way to avoid dealing with trauma.
Avoiding crowds
Avoiding driving
Avoiding all sorts of media (movie, news, video games)
Avoiding activities that are or could be associated with the trauma (ie an avid hunter may stop hunting to avoid particular triggers).

So this is the clinical take on what constitutes PTSD. But what can it really look like in someone’s life? It will vary from person to person obviously as everyone has different backgrounds, religious beliefs, personalities and different experiences in life. So lets look, in layman’s terms, what someone with PTSD may experience.

Panic Attacks or other anxiety problems including hypersensitivity to his/her surroundings….this is experience of INTENSE fear which most often is accompanied by shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, dizziness and racing heart. At the very least, discomfort may occur. This is almost directly related to hyper vigilance and may be ‘triggered’ by something totally unrelated to what is happening in that very moment.

Feelings of mistrust (could be specific or not)

Problems in daily living: not being able to function ‘normally’ at work, home and within relationships. This can include a decline in personal hygiene (or obsessiveness with it). Stopping doing daily household chores, organizational problems, etc. Emotional distancing of themselves towards other people, places and things in order to cope with feeling ‘unsafe’. This can come across as being cold, aloof, uncaring, demanding or otherwise socially unacceptable behaviors.

Substance Abuse: using drugs or alcohol to cope with emotional pain

Depression/Mood Swings: persistent sadness, anxiety, emptiness, loss of interest, guilt, shame, hopelessness about the future. Going from being happy to angry and back again for no real apparent reason. Isolating themselves. May become aggressive and angry for ‘no good reason’.

Memory problems are almost always present. Usually this shows up at first as ‘absent mindedness’ such as constantly misplacing things or loosing things. It can progress into forgetting names, appointments and other day to day things. Later on, someone with PTSD may even begin to forget past events that were important to them, or forget what they were saying in the middle of a sentence and may even say something and then repeat themselves a few minutes later.

Risk Taking Behavior such as driving too fast, multiple sex partners, starting fights and other behaviors that typically would be considered ‘risky’ with the potential to do harm to themselves or others.

Isolating from the world…many people with PTSD will in an effort to keep themselves safe begin to withdraw from people to the point that they may turn into ‘recluses’ who only go out when food or medicine is needed.

Obsessive/Compulsive Behaviors: check and rechecking that a door is locked, driving around and around in a parking lot, running to the doctor every time they sneeze. The point in obsessive/compulsive behavior to keep themselves ‘safe’ to prevent further trauma.

Super sensitivity to outside stimulation: this is directly related ‘triggers’. When the original traumatic event occurs, the brain basically ‘burns’ into the deepest part of the memories and cortex exactly what happened, how it happened and circumstances in which it occurred.

Checklist of PTSD symptoms:

Physical Symptoms:
Headaches
Stomach problems
Changes in breathing patterns (shortness of breath/not breathing normally)
Lack of energy OR Hyper Activity
Sleep problems
Emotional pain never felt before
Anxiety problems
Hypersensitivity
Hyper vigilance

Psychological Problems:
Mood swings
Memory problems
Addiction/Self Medication
Loss of personal hygiene/housekeeping
Risk taking behavior
Isolation
Depression (“what’s the point?”)
Paranoid thoughts
Reliving the event(s) with accompanying emotions

Sleep Problems:
Insomnia (not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep)
Having nightmares
Waking up covered in sweat
Kicking during sleep
Constantly waking up and falling back asleep
Waking up and being easily startled and/or being confused about where you are
Irregular sleep cycles

It is my hope that you have found this information helpful in describing what PTSD ‘looks’ like symptomatically. Too often many seek help and a diagnosis of PTSD is not given because the full spectrum of what PTSD looks like isn’t known by many doctors and mental health professionals. Do not be afraid to print this off and take it with you if you choose to seek help (which I hope you will) so that you maybe appropriately helped and treated. PTSD is multi-faceted and can be difficult to diagnosis unless you and those around you know the facts about what it is and what it looks like. But it is treatable and can be overcome. There is hope.

In part 3 of this series on PTSD I will discuss ‘triggers’ which plays an important role in PTSD.

Survivingshtfmom

hypothermiaWith another winter storm coming in across the southern and eastern United States, I thought it would be a good idea to share with you the signs and symptoms of hypothermia which can be deadly if not treated promptly.
The snow and ice predicted over the coming days may leave you stuck in a car, with no power or have you outside trying to clear the wintry mess up or just going outside to play.

A must read and print off:
http://www.princeton.edu/~oa/safety/hypocold.shtml

All information below was taken from the Mayo Clinic Website:

Definition:
Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature. Normal body temperature is around 98.6 F (37 C). Hypothermia (hi-po-THUR-me-uh) occurs as your body temperature passes below 95 F (35 C).
When your body temperature drops, your heart, nervous system and other organs can’t work correctly. Left untreated, hypothermia can eventually lead to complete failure of your heart and respiratory system and to death.
Hypothermia is most often caused by exposure to cold weather or immersion in a cold body of water. Primary treatments for hypothermia are methods to warm the body back to a normal temperature.
Shivering is your body’s automatic defense against cold temperature — an attempt to warm itself. Constant shivering is a key sign of hypothermia. Signs and symptoms of moderate to severe hypothermia include:
• Shivering
• Clumsiness or lack of coordination
• Slurred speech or mumbling
• Stumbling
• Confusion or difficulty thinking
• Poor decision making, such as trying to remove warm clothes
• Drowsiness or very low energy
• Apathy or lack of concern about one’s condition
• Progressive loss of consciousness
• Weak pulse
• Slow, shallow breathing
A person with hypothermia usually isn’t aware of his or her condition, because the symptoms often begin gradually and because the confused thinking associated with hypothermia prevents self-awareness.

Please keep in mind that your first line of defense against hypothermia is prevention:
Before you or your children step out into cold air, remember the advice that follows with the simple acronym COLD — cover, overexertion, layers, dry:
• Cover. Wear a hat or other protective covering to prevent body heat from escaping from your head, face and neck. Cover your hands with mittens instead of gloves. Mittens are more effective than gloves because mittens keep your fingers in closer contact with one another.
• Overexertion. Avoid activities that would cause you to sweat a lot. The combination of wet clothing and cold weather can cause you to lose body heat more quickly.
• Layers. Wear loose fitting, layered, lightweight clothing. Outer clothing made of tightly woven, water-repellent material is best for wind protection. Wool, silk or polypropylene inner layers hold body heat better than cotton does.
• Dry. Stay as dry as possible. Get out of wet clothing as soon as possible. Be especially careful to keep your hands and feet dry, as it’s easy for snow to get into mittens and boots.
Keeping children safe outdoors
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests the following tips to help prevent hypothermia when children are outside in the winter:
• Dress infants and young children in one more layer than an adult would wear in the same conditions.
• Limit the amount of time children spend outside in the cold.
• Have children come inside frequently to warm themselves.
Winter car safety
Whenever you’re traveling during bad weather, be sure someone knows where you’re headed, and at what time you’re expected to arrive. That way, if you get into trouble on your way, emergency responders will know where to look for your car. It’s also a good idea to keep emergency supplies in your car in case you get stranded. Supplies may include several blankets, matches, candles, a first-aid kit, dry or canned food, and a can opener. Travel with a cellphone if possible. If you’re stranded, put everything you need in the car with you, huddle together and stay covered. Run the car for 10 minutes each hour to warm it up. Make sure a window is slightly open and the exhaust pipe isn’t covered with snow while the engine is running.
Drinking alcohol
Take the following precautions to avoid alcohol-related risks of hypothermia.
Don’t drink alcohol:
• If you’re going to be outside in cold weather
• If you’re boating
• Before going to bed on cold nights
Cold-water safety
Water doesn’t have to be extremely cold to cause hypothermia. Any water that’s colder than normal body temperature causes heat loss. The following tips may increase your survival time in cold water, if you accidentally fall in:
• Wear a life jacket. If you plan to ride in a watercraft, wear a life jacket. A life jacket can help you stay alive longer in cold water by enabling you to float without using energy and by providing some insulation. Keep a whistle attached to your life jacket to signal for help.
• Get out of the water if possible. Get out of the water as much as possible, such as climbing onto a capsized boat or grabbing onto a floating object.
• Don’t attempt to swim unless you’re close to safety. Unless a boat, another person or a life jacket is close by, stay put. Swimming will use up energy and may shorten survival time.
• Position your body to minimize heat loss. Use a body position known as the heat escape lessening position (HELP) to reduce heat loss while you wait for assistance. Hold your knees to your chest to protect the trunk of your body. If you’re wearing a life jacket that turns your face down in this position, bring your legs tightly together, your arms to your sides and your head back.
• Huddle with others. If you’ve fallen into cold water with other people, keep warm by facing each other in a tight circle.
• Don’t remove your clothing. While you’re in the water, don’t remove clothing. Buckle, button and zip up your clothes. Cover your head if possible. The layer of water between your clothing and your body will help insulate you. Remove clothing only after you’re safely out of the water and can take measures to get dry and warm.

Hypothermia not necessarily related to the outdoors
Hypothermia isn’t always the result of exposure to extremely cold outdoor temperatures. An older person may develop mild hypothermia after prolonged exposure to indoor temperatures that would be tolerable to a younger or healthier adult — for example, temperatures in a poorly heated home or in an air-conditioned home.
Symptoms of mild hypothermia not related to extreme cold exposure are nearly identical to those of more severe hypothermia, but may be much less obvious. Signs and symptoms of mild hypothermia may include:
• Shivering
• Faster breathing
• Trouble speaking
• Confusion
• Lack of coordination
• Fatigue
• Increased heart rate
• High blood pressure
Hypothermia in infants
Typical signs of hypothermia in an infant include:
• Bright red, cold skin
• Very low energy
When to see a doctor
Call 911 or your local emergency number if you see someone with signs of hypothermia or if you suspect a person has had unprotected or prolonged exposure to cold weather or water. If possible take the person inside, remove wet clothing, and cover him or her in layers of blankets.
How hypothermia happens:
Hypothermia occurs when your body loses heat faster than it produces it. The most common causes of hypothermia are exposure to cold-weather conditions or cold water. But prolonged exposure to any environment colder than your body can lead to hypothermia if you aren’t dressed appropriately or can’t control the conditions. Specific conditions leading to hypothermia can include:
• Wearing clothes that aren’t warm enough for weather conditions
• Staying out in the cold too long
• Unable to get out of wet clothes or move to a warm, dry location
• Accidental falls in water, as in a boating accident
• Inadequate heating in the home, especially for older people and infants
• Air conditioning that is too cold, especially for older people and infants
How your body loses heat
The mechanisms of heat loss from your body include the following:
• Radiated heat. Most heat loss is due to heat radiated from unprotected surfaces of your body.
• Direct contact. If you’re in direct contact with something very cold, such as cold water or the cold ground, heat is conducted away from your body. Because water is very good at transferring heat from your body, body heat is lost much faster in cold water than in cold air. Similarly, heat loss from your body is much faster if your clothes are wet, as when you’re caught out in the rain.
• Wind. Wind removes body heat by carrying away the thin layer of warm air at the surface of your skin. A wind chill factor is important in causing heat loss.

Risk Factors:

A number of factors can increase the risk of developing hypothermia:
• Older age. People age 65 and older are more vulnerable to hypothermia for a number of reasons. The body’s ability to regulate temperature and to sense cold may lessen with age. Older people are also more likely to have a medical condition that affects temperature regulation. Some older adults may not be able to communicate when they are cold or may not be mobile enough to get to a warm location.
• Very young age. Children lose heat faster than adults do. Children have a larger head-to-body ratio than adults do, making them more prone to heat loss through the head. Children may also ignore the cold because they’re having too much fun to think about it. And they may not have the judgment to dress properly in cold weather or to get out of the cold when they should. Infants may have a special problem with the cold because they have less efficient mechanisms for generating heat.
• Mental problems. People with a mental illness, dementia or another condition that interferes with judgment may not dress appropriately for the weather or understand the risk of cold weather. People with dementia may wander from home or get lost easily, making them more likely to be stranded outside in cold or wet weather.
• Alcohol and drug use. Alcohol may make your body feel warm inside, but it causes your blood vessels to dilate, or expand, resulting in more rapid heat loss from the surface of your skin. The use of alcohol or recreational drugs can affect your judgment about the need to get inside or wear warm clothes in cold weather conditions. If a person is intoxicated and passes out in cold weather, he or she is likely to develop hypothermia.
• Certain medical conditions. Some health disorders affect your body’s ability to regulate body temperature. Examples include underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), poor nutrition, stroke, severe arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, trauma, spinal cord injuries, burns, disorders that affect sensation in your extremities (for example, nerve damage in the feet of people with diabetes), dehydration, and any condition that limits activity or restrains the normal flow of blood.
• Medications. A number of drugs, including certain antidepressants, antipsychotics and sedatives, can change the body’s ability to regulate its temperature.
Diagnosis:
The diagnosis of hypothermia is usually apparent based on a person’s physical signs and the conditions in which the person with hypothermia became ill or was found.
A diagnosis may not be readily apparent, however, if the symptoms are mild, as when an older person who is indoors has symptoms such as confusion, lack of coordination and speech problems. In such cases, an exam may include a temperature reading with a rectal thermometer that reads low temperatures.
Until you can obtain professional medical care:
First-aid care
• Be gentle. When you’re helping a person with hypothermia, handle him or her gently. Limit movements to only those that are necessary. Don’t massage or rub the person. Excessive, vigorous or jarring movements may trigger cardiac arrest.
• Move the person out of the cold. Move the person to a warm, dry location if possible. If you’re unable to move the person out of the cold, shield him or her from the cold and wind as much as possible.
• Remove wet clothing. If the person is wearing wet clothing, remove it. Cut away clothing if necessary to avoid excessive movement.
• Cover the person with blankets. Use layers of dry blankets or coats to warm the person. Cover the person’s head, leaving only the face exposed.
• Insulate the person’s body from the cold ground. If you’re outside, lay the person on his or her back on a blanket or other warm surface.
• Monitor breathing. A person with severe hypothermia may appear unconscious, with no apparent signs of a pulse or breathing. If the person’s breathing has stopped or appears dangerously low or shallow, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) immediately if you’re trained.
• Share body heat. To warm the person’s body, remove your clothing and lie next to the person, making skin-to-skin contact. Then cover both of your bodies with blankets.
• Provide warm beverages. If the affected person is alert and able to swallow, provide a warm, nonalcoholic, noncaffeinated beverage to help warm the body.
• Use warm, dry compresses. Use a first-aid warm compress (a plastic fluid-filled bag that warms up when squeezed), or a makeshift compress of warm water in a plastic bottle or a dryer-warmed towel. Apply a compress only to the neck, chest wall or groin. Don’t apply a warm compress to the arms or legs. Heat applied to the arms and legs forces cold blood back toward the heart, lungs and brain, causing the core body temperature to drop. This can be fatal.
• Don’t apply direct heat. Don’t use hot water, a heating pad or a heating lamp to warm the person. The extreme heat can damage the skin or even worse, cause irregular heartbeats so severe that they can cause the heart to stop.

If you think you or someone you know is experiencing signs and symptoms of hypothermia seek medical treatment!