Rather than simply having a temporary effect on physical health, the PTSD response can have both acute and chronic symptoms. As described by the National Center for PTSD, research has shown that people with PTSD are likely to have more lasting problems with their health than those who do not have PTSD. Some of the physical issues include:
- Musculoskeletal problems
- Heart disease
- Gastrointestinal disorders
Research is still being done on the prevalence of these issues and how it is that PTSD affects them. Nevertheless, it is evident that people who experience trauma are more likely to utilize medical services for physical issues.
For the person with PTSD, the emotional and cognitive response is heightened compared to that of a person who does not have PTSD. In fact, the individual with PTSD maintains many of the psychological symptoms of stress chronically, even when there is no stressor around. For example, a person with PTSD may have heightened anxiety and hyper-attentiveness even in a benign situation, like going out to dinner.
In addition, as described by Psychology Today, people with PTSD have psychological symptoms that those who don’t have it don’t generally experience, including:
- Re-experiencing the traumatic event through nightmares or flashbacks
- Displaying intense emotion when confronted with reminders of the event
- Feeling hypervigilant at all times
- Having extreme responses to minor stimuli such as being startled
Because the person who is struggling with PTSD is dealing with an intense stressor at all times, it can be difficult to feel healthy or whole. As a result, the individual may engage in self-medicating or self-destructive behaviors in an effort to ease the discomfort of symptoms, as described in the PTSD Research Quarterly. As a result, people with PTSD are more likely to experience substance use disorders and severe depression or anxiety that leads to suicidal ideation.
In addition, the individual with PTSD may be more likely to have a violent behavioral or emotional response to a minor stressor, such as being startled. Outbursts or defensive reactions can be provoked very easily. This can put a great strain on relationships and make the person uncomfortable or fearful of being in public places where a panic attack or violent reaction may occur.