5 Embarrassing Symptoms of PTSD

Symptoms of PTSD

When you have lived through a traumatic situation, your brain has a natural way of preserving the experience in an effort to protect you from future occurrences that could be dangerous. All of us have this built-in survival system. It stems back to our cave-dwelling ancestors in prehistoric times who always needed to be on the alert to avoid becoming the dinner for a large creature, such as a saber-toothed cat.

When we are faced with a threat, this fight-or-flight system automatically kicks in and releases cortisol and other stress hormones into our brain and body. This causes our heart rate to go up and our muscles become primed to run away from whatever could hurt us. All of this is designed to increase our chances of surviving. Once the event passes, the fight-or-flight mechanisms naturally turn off.

What Happens in the Brain During a Traumatic Experience?

While this protective mechanism in our brain is largely a blessing, it can be troublesome for anyone who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), because it doesn’t know when to turn itself off. It’s as though your brain stays attuned to any sense of danger—whether real or imagined. During trauma, parts of your brain go offline in order for you to focus on escape and survival, and because of this, some of the memories about the traumatic experience can get stored in the non-cognitive areas of the brain, like the sensory system (i.e., certain smells, textures, and sights) or in your body.

5 Stressful Symptoms of PTSD

Due in part to this complexity, people who are living with PTSD can be suddenly triggered and upset, possibly without even understanding why. Experiencing this can be stressful and unpleasant, and when it happens out in public, it can bring up feelings of shame or even embarrassment. If this happens to you, it’s important to remind yourself that PSTD is not a character flaw or personal weakness. Brain SPECT imaging studies make it clear that PTSD is a brain disorder. It is a medical issue, not a moral one. And no one should be shamed for any medical concern.

Brain SPECT imaging studies make it clear that PTSD is a brain disorder. It is a medical issue, not a moral one. And no one should be shamed for any medical concern. Click To Tweet

Do you struggle with any of these unwanted symptoms of PTSD?

1. You panic during thunderstorms or when winds are high.

People who have survived natural disasters, sometimes by the skin of their teeth, have endured very traumatic and life-threatening situations. For example, imagine a family who stayed at home when a big hurricane hit and had to huddle together in the hallway of the house as all the windows blew out while the wind howled for several hours. After surviving a very threatening situation like that, the sounds of uncontrollable weather can understandably be a big trigger, even when there is no actual hurricane (or tornado or other threat) looming.

2. You need to sit near an exit or facing an entrance.

Because of the traumatic experience you had, such as being abused, assaulted, or stalked, you may feel too vulnerable when you cannot see everyone who is in the room. Therefore, you prefer sitting at a table where you can have your back to the wall, or right next to the entrance or exit to accommodate any urge you may get to leave immediately if you feel threatened.

3. You feel a sudden need to use the restroom when a traumatic memory gets triggered.

One of the reasons this could happen is because some of the stress hormones that are secreted by your fight-or-flight system affect your G.I. tract. Going back to prehistoric times again, it’s believed that this function caused our ancestors to expel their bowels to be lighter and increase their chances of escaping from a predator. Unfortunately, this automatic function now can make you feel like you don’t have control over your physical body.

4. You mentally check out in the middle of a conversation.

You’re physically present but feel removed from your mind and/or body and may not have any sense of what the other person is saying. This is known as dissociation and occurs when you get triggered by something that evokes a painful traumatic memory. It’s a coping mechanism that allows you to escape from something that is too difficult to think about. Dissociation is often momentary, but sometimes these episodes can last for a while.

5. You startle easily.

This kind of hypervigilance is common for people who have PTSD. It’s as though an alarm goes off in your head from unanticipated loud noises or movements—even when there’s no actual threat to your safety. Again, this is the result of a fight-or-flight system that has difficulty shutting down.

These symptoms and reactions can be very stressful. When cortisol and other stress hormones are constantly being released into your brain and body, they can lead people to rely on unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as overeating or using alcohol and recreational drugs to feel calmer. Unfortunately, that relief is only short-lived and makes your problems worse.

PTSD Treatment Can Make a Positive Difference

A much more enduring way to get PTSD symptoms under control is by reaching out for professional help. The idea of working through your trauma may feel uncomfortable because it is something you don’t like to talk about. However, there are certain therapies that have been found to be quite successful for trauma survivors and typically involve less talking. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing—also known as EMDR—is one such modality.

By using eye movements or small hand-held devices that alternately stimulate the two hemispheres of your brain, EMDR helps to get the memories “unstuck,” so you can process them from the present, rather than being pulled back into the overwhelming traumatic moments of the past.

With the right treatment, it’s possible to heal from the symptoms of PTSD and work through your trauma so the distressing memories of your past don’t continue to limit and control your future.

PTSD and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.


  1. Brilliant stuff! Actually I suffer from cptsd, complex ptsd. My father was an alcoholic sociopstg and my mother a strong smoker and marijuana user probably depressed and overwhelmed. I am a believer in jesus christ and an active 12 stepper in AA like groups. Do you recommend the same therapy for cptsd as for ptsd? Emdr eg? Or is there a different treatment needed?

    Comment by boris loeser — July 12, 2021 @ 4:39 AM

  2. Losing a mother at 8 years old would cause PTSD I would think. I don’t remember her because it is too painful for me. I’ve done therapy mostly around my step mother because I had nothing to talk about with my my mother. I tried to remember her with EMDR but didn’t work. It did open a wellspring of emotion around everything which makes me incredibly embarrassed.

    Comment by Marcy Carmack — July 12, 2021 @ 4:48 AM

  3. I was ex w PTSD @ a very young age. My grandfather passed in front of me when I thought I was 2-1/2. I had just turned 3. Hearing that frightening noise n seeing his eyes roll back in his head n that “puff of smoke” come out of his mouth? I screamed‼ My Aunt Lilly came to the stairs,grabbed a sheet, threw it over him n then we suddenly had a severe thunder storm. I was afraid of “donna lighta” after that. I was bullied as a child by schoolmates for being fat. I’m wondering if all this cortisol n stress I’m dealing with now was my problem back then. This EMDR sounds awesome. I’m the only different 1 in the ALF where I live. The owners n staff are all from Haiti. They are rude n crass‼ I hate constantly being interrupted n accused of things I didn’t do. This has me very stressed out. This is America, not Haiti. They all yell @ the same time when conversing‼😂😂 I’m doing my best to cope. I’m trapped here. I don’t drive anymore. If I did n had my own car I go to the beach, library. I o go for walks. Now that I’m older, 65 to be exact, I’m not as tolerant of things as I used to be. Am I so wrong being interrupted, constantly dealing with all the negativity here. I go to Church almost every Sunday. I pray everyday. We all “go to” (virtual) except for the 2 that get shots Suncoast Center. I’m alcohol free since 2/28/2019. I used to hide my feelings. I quit smoking 3/5/2019. I quit drinking coffee 3/2/2021. .y physical joint n bone pain has diminished. But my problem is dealing with stress. I’m down to 50mg Zoloft once a day. I’ve on that since 2005 for flashbacks from my only semi wreck 1/10/2005. I was on 200mg I was a zombie @ 1st. I greatly respect you n your opinions are phenomenal Dr Amen‼ GOD BLESS YOU‼ You’ve helped me a lot with your emails. Thank you so very much‼❤😷🙏👼🏻😇😊👍🏁

    Comment by Nancy Ruth Krauch — July 12, 2021 @ 6:37 AM

  4. I had EMDR therapy and it worked for me! I highly recommend it for PTSD. It was a life saver for me.

    Comment by Gale W. — July 12, 2021 @ 3:10 PM

  5. I love EMDR! It let me get my life back after my childhood event. I go back for more whenever I feel I am being triggered. The very fact that I now aware that I am reacting to a trigger and not some real event has also been very helpful!

    Comment by Helen Brethauer-Gay — July 12, 2021 @ 4:56 PM

  6. Great article. Thank you.

    Comment by Timothy Lee — July 12, 2021 @ 6:18 PM

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