When someone experiences a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder episode there are residual symptoms. Residual symptoms are different from PTSD symptoms. These begin immediately after the episode subsides. And, these residual effects last for another 24 to 48 hours. The most common symptoms induced are physical pain, dissociation, and disorientation. PTSD physical pain and residual symptoms are intense. Because your loved one has had PTSD take over, certain things happen to their mind and body.
During a PTSD episode the sufferer is involuntarily mentally checked out. It’s like someone took over their body and mind, pushed them deep down inside themselves, and is driving the vehicle. This proves difficult for you because you still see the same person as your mother or husband, etc. They are also experiencing involuntary muscle activity throughout their entire body. Due to their brain activity getting “stuck” on over-drive both their nervous system and body is operating on all cylinders for a long period of time.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Disassociation
Although dissociation is a predominant symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder the residual kind differs. Residual dissociation is described as less intense. But just because it’s not as excessive doesn’t mean it’s not agonizing. It’s similar to being in a daydream-like state. And it’s hard for the PTSD sufferer to communicate during these aftermath problems.
They can’t focus very well and participate as an active listener when talking to you. They will also appear to be drowsy and exhausted. This is easy to sympathize with considering their entire being was stuck on hyper-drive for hours. Having a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder attack is extremely exhausting for them. This applies both physically and mentally.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Physical Pain
During a PTSD episode your loved one is flexing every muscle in their body. This is due to the fight-or-flight response that our brains are wired for. Our bodies have a natural danger detector and, when activated, our bodies respond with preparing for survival. Part of this preparation is flexing our muscles. Someone in a state of PTSD is stuck in the fight-or-flight mode. Therefore their muscles are constantly engaged. Imagine standing in the same position with every muscle flexed, continuously, as hard as possible for several hours.
After the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder episode de-escalates one will start to relax their body. After doing so, every muscle in their body hurts extremely badly. If you have ever had an intense workout you might remember your muscles aching the next day. Well, the physical pain caused by PTSD is equivalent to training for a marathon. Expect your loved one’s pain to last for up to two or three days.
In addition to physical pain this person will often undergo a horrific headache, similar to a migraine, which may last up to 24 hours. Consequently this causes even higher levels of irritability. Then there may also be jaw and teeth pain from clenching their teeth for so long.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Disorientation
Another problem that presents after a PTSD episode is disorientation. Disorientation is best described as being in a mental state where one loses their sense of awareness. They are confused and have little bearing on what day it is or where they are. Their memory of anything that took place during a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder episode is nonexistent.
They may be confused and disoriented for two to three days after a PTSD attack. They can experience intervals of awareness. There will be moments in time where they will not have a conscious idea of what is going on around them. This can be where they are physically, the date or time, and even what they were engaged in if any activity. For example, my husband and I recently drove to a nearby city for his therapy appointment. The drive is approximately one and a half hours long. When we arrived at his therapist’s office he couldn’t remember how we got there or anything about the drive up. And he was even clueless as to where we were.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Residual Symptoms
These secondary issues are both challenging and scary. When someone hears of PTSD they may think someone suffers a short flashback or an elongated panic attack. But the truth is that there’s so much more to PTSD. Episodes are never short, and the effect of an episode has on a person lasts for days afterward. These symptoms are the after-math manifestations following what happened. This involves physical, neurological, and emotional duress during their PTSD attack. If you know someone suffering from the symptoms of PTSD it is a good thing to remember this key information. You will set yourself up to better understand what is going on during the recovery days. Especially relevant is that you will be able to support your partner in a stronger way and be prepared. Be prepared to help them relax and ease back into the normalcy of your every-day functioning life. In doing so, you will help them reduce the duration of their residual symptoms.