Building Stress Resistance

Stress is the effect of physical and emotional changes happening around us. It is our reaction to an event or events based on our perception of the information our brains are receiving.

This reaction is generally controlled and calculated for non-PTSD sufferers, as their perception of the world in not fueled by negative thoughts. But people with PTSD tend to have more marked reactions to the surrounding world, as their perception of the world is directly affected by the symptoms brought on by the disorder.

For a person with PTSD, the world around them seems to always be heightened, hyper-aroused, and on edge. Reactions to stress are based on the PTSD sufferer’s perception of the world, almost always filtered through the PTSD lens, tainted by trauma.

Managing symptoms through learned healthy coping mechanisms and skills is the PTSD sufferer’s #1 priority in their healing journey. But you cannot stop there. A person with PTSD must learn to build resistance against stress because unmanaged stress can have a variety of serious physical, mental, and psychological effects.

Balancing your life as a person looking to heal from PTSD should start by pinpoint all sources of stress. Without knowledge of individual sources of stress, it will be impossible for a person with PTSD to learn and implement healthy and effective coping mechanism and skills to counter the effects that stress could have in your life.

Build resistance against stress and its side effects will help you maintain control and balance in your PTSD life and reduce the chances of having serious physical ailments, or additional psychological issues.

Signs & Symptoms of Stress

Stress manifests in a variety of ways, and it’s different for everyone.

While negative stimuli might give someone diarrhea for three days, others may have a migraine, back pain, or lack of appetite for the next person. This is important because one of the cornerstones of controlling PTSD symptoms is learning to read the body, what stresses it, and how to tackle it with healthy coping mechanisms tailored to your needs.

For PTSD sufferers, stress comes from a variety of sources and enters through the senses. It could be a sight, a sound, or a feeling, but these can be triggers that bring back old or repressed traumatic memories. This has intense effects on your physical and emotional reactions to your surrounding environment.

Physical Signs & Symptoms of Stress

Lack of Attention to Detail

If you are stressed, you are not paying attention to the details around you. Without the ability to see details you cannot have a broad perspective on the information you are receiving and can cause you to be unnecessarily over-reactive.

Negative Emotions

PTSD manifests in thoughts, emotions, and body sensations, and these are related to trauma. Unmanaged stress can exacerbate negative emotions rooted in stress, such as aggression, hostility, and jealousy.

Negativity & Pessimism

PTSD tends to give you an overwhelmingly negative outlook on life, and unmanaged stress can exacerbate these feelings. It is difficult to perceive goodness in the world after a traumatic experience, and stress can make PTSD’s daily self-battles feel like impossible tasks to accomplish, making the negative attitude easily grip an overstressed person. It is challenging enough to generate positive thoughts when you have PTSD, and unmanaged stress can complicate matters and keep your state of mind on a downward spiral of negativity and pessimism.

Pessimism, negativity, and even cynicism are desperate attempts to defend yourself from a perceived and imminent danger. If you do not expect for anything good or positive to happen, then when those things don’t happen you don’t have to feel disappointed. This thought process perpetuates the cycle of negativity in PTSD sufferers, further isolating or disillusioning them about their surrounding environment. It can also perpetuate all trauma related reactions you might be experiencing, as only positive thoughts and coping mechanisms will help you overcome PTSD’s symptoms.

Reduced Creativity

The higher your stress levels are, the lower your creativity will be, especially if you are dealing with events that require high levels of creativity. When you are stressed and your mind is busy trying to fight (or shield) the world around, you cannot think in crafty ways and tend to fall back on automatic habits, which is the exact opposite of creativity. A PTSD mind can be very creative, but unmanaged stress hijacks your brain an destroys your creative thinking capacity.


A PTSD mind is always in a state of hypervigilance and hyperarousal, which affects cognitive function. This ‘on edge’ feeling can manifest in the form of restlessness, and can sometimes be misdiagnosed as an attention deficit problem in PTSD sufferers. Whether it’s physical or mental, not having peace of mind with stress can keep the PTSD mind and body jittery, anxious, and insecure all the time. Restlessness can manifest when you’re awake and when you’re asleep, so make sure you figure out a way to reduce your stress.

Thought Disorganization

Thought disorganization is a very big problem present for people with PTSD, and it’s often overlooked by therapists and people working on self-help steps. PTSD affects your thought process. Stress affects your PTSD symptoms, which can worsen your already disorganized and overreactive thought process. If your thought process is not fully functional, and you have unmanaged stressed fueling your PTSD symptoms, your thoughts will surely lose direction. Coping mechanism must be in place for anyone with PTSD to manage their stress. Once stress affects your thought process, you won’t be able to control your reactivity to stimuli and that’s when you can lose control. Thought disorganization plays a HUGE role in why therapy alone doesn’t work for everyone with PTSD. That’s when community comes into play - sometimes you just need a friend to tell you You are talking shit. Your therapist won’t do that.

Emotional Signs & Symptoms of Stress

One common misconception with stress is that it is an emotional problem, often camouflaged as anxiety, extreme worry, or depression. However, stress can also be physical, nutritional, and chemical, and the impact that unmanaged stress can have on people with PTSD can have seriously negative or even fatal effects.

Blood Pressure Changes

Although stress does not directly cause hypertension, it can have an effect on it because it leads to repeated elevations of your blood pressure and the stimulation of the nervous system to produce hormones that increase it. If you already struggle with high blood pressure, unmanaged stress and PTSD symptoms can result in lifetime blood pressure problems and even turn fatal.

Blood Sugar

During stressful situations, the adrenal glands trigger the release of glucose store in different organs. This can lead to elevated levels of glucose in your bloodstream. Long term stress can have a permanent impact on your body’s blood sugar resulting in diabetes.

Changes in Sexual Drive

Unmanaged and chronic stress can affect your libido, which is your sex drive. A busy schedule takes a toll on your personal life, and if you have unmanaged stress and PTSD, having all that in your mind will make it difficult to relax and get in the mood. If you have intimacy issues, and are working to conquer your fears, stress can affect your desire, ability, and willingness to get close to a person. Chronic stress can also make women experience irregular periods.


Diarrhea is often present for people with PTSD because anxiety based disorders are linked to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a chronic condition of the large intestine that produces cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation, or both. IBS is common among people with PTSD, especially those with unmanaged stress because stress hormones have a funny way of making your colon work faster, resulting in diarrhea.

Excessive Fatigue

Without coping skills, fighting PTSD symptoms is a full time mental and physical job, because the reality is that your mind has the capacity to produce more stress than your body can handle. It’s important to keep your stress under control so that you have energy to tackle the disorder without feeling exhausted.  If you cannot find a way to manage your stress, you will feel tired all the time, unable to function properly, wanting to rest all the time when you have to be working or studying. This can affect many aspects of your personal and professional life.


Unless you are taking medications to help you manage your PTSD symptoms or have a medical condition, most of your headaches are probably due to unmanaged stress and the impact it has in your PTSD life. Also, many medicines that treat PTSD symptoms have a plethora of side effects, headaches and migraines is one.

Heart Beat Changes

Regular stress caused by anxiety can turn into an irregular heartbeat. Constant mental stress can affect the dynamics of the blood flow in your body, which will change the way your heart beats and can also your heart rate. The heart simply pounds and beats faster when it is under stress, and unmanaged stress and PTSD symptoms can make you very anxious. Severe anxiety creates more anxiety.


Impatience is a mental process that gets triggered under specific circumstances. But PTSD riddles you with negative emotions of anxiety and anger, and in many situations these negative emotions can affect your ability to be patient, making you irritable and restless in situations that don’t merit impatience. PTSD and impatience can also lead to your being or responding in a rude manner to people.

Muscle Tightness

Some people with PTSD have forgotten what a relaxed muscle is supposed to feel like because PTSD anxiety causes muscle tension at all times. PTSD sufferers with unmanaged stress can feel muscle tension when they are trying to relax, go to sleep, are asleep, working, reading, walking, etc. PTSD causes muscle tension all over the body, and may randomly wander to different muscles or muscle groups throughout the body. Muscle tightness includes tight, sore, and painful muscles and/or muscle tension in the face, head, mouth, back of the head and neck, top and back of the shoulders, chest, arms, back, legs, hands, digestive system, stomach, groin, feet, jaw, back, and even eyelids. In addition, a stressful situation you have difficulty coping with can produce painful sudden muscle stiffness and be quite painful until you manage to relax those muscles. If stress and anxiety related muscle tightness is not addressed, it can lead to advanced or chronic pain in the body, greatly limiting your mobility.

Speech Difficulties

When the body becomes abnormally stressed, anxiety can affect coordination and bring thinking problems, which can affect speaking or make it difficult to move the tongue. From shaky voice, to quiet voice, to loss of voice, to trouble putting thoughts to words, or even stuttering, stress can cause speech difficulties. If you find yourself having difficulty speaking or moving your tongue, pay attention because your stress levels are very high and you need to work on reducing them to regain normal speech and prevent the situation from getting out of hand.


When a person with PTSD is overstressed, they can be overly anxious and feel panicky in certain situations. This can lead to anxiety induced dry heaves which can lead to vomiting.

Weak Immune System

Stress is associated to immunosuppression, which is the reduction or inability of your immune system to fight off illnesses. A compromised immune system is not good for anyone, and not helpful in your battle against PTSD. Unless you have an autoimmune disorder or other health related issue that can lower your immune system, a weak immune system is often the result of stress, poor diet, and lack of exercise. In the case of the PTSD sufferer, unmanaged stress can weaken the body’s immune system, making you more susceptible to a variety of illnesses. Paired with the cocktail of symptoms and side effects that PTSD gives a person, stress and a weakened immune system can prevent you from tackling PTSD and regaining control of your life.

Withdrawal From Social Life

PTSD makes you feel different, sometimes bad enough to make you believe you cannot connect with others. The symptoms of PTSD can also make it difficult for you to cope with group situations, as the anxiety to perform in a social setting can be too much for you to handle. In addition, the high levels of shame, guilt, and self-blame experienced by PTSD sufferers can lead to social withdrawal, isolation, and lack of motivation.

Behavioral Signs & Symptoms of Stress


When you are already preoccupied trying to take control of your life and your actions, unmanaged stress can lead to a careless attitude for many folks with PTSD. This can manifest through a series or variety of irresponsible acts that can have damaging results for you, personally and professionally.

Compulsive Behavior

Without coping mechanism, just about anyone under stress shows compulsive behavior. But behaving out of compulsion takes on a whole new meaning for PTSD sufferers, as without proper techniques, those affected are more likely to act without thinking than take the time to analyze actions, reactions, and their respective consequences.

Irregular Eating Habits

If you’ve ever been stressed, you probably had problems with over or under eating. Stress has a funny way of affecting our eating habits. For those with PTSD, irregular eating can have detrimental effects on their health and energy, as many of the PTSD associated symptoms manifest psychosomatically. Bad nutrition will just add to that problem.

Self Medicating

Whether it’s smoking, drinking, or drugs, unmanaged stress can suck you into intoxicating substances and habits that do nothing good for your health and your PTSD mind. If you need an outlet, get addicted to a sport or a hobby like woodworking or painting.

Take Control of Your Life: Manage Your Stress

In one form or another, PTSD affects every single day and aspect of your life. That's how it was for me for more than 10 years. My diagnosis was complex, which made battling the symptoms very tiring task. There was always an outside source affecting my day. If that didn’t do it, an internal one would kick in. But you don’t have to live like this.

A diagnosis is a positive thing. It tells you that there are others in your current situation, and that people are taking stance to find solutions by researching possible channels to help those affected by PTSD. You can take control of your life, but you must believe it, and you must believe in yourself.

If you don’t believe in yourself, stop reading now and throw this guide away and ask for your money back. If you allow trauma to rule and guide your life, you will be a miserable human being and a danger to yourself and perhaps others. You don’t have to prolong the suffering by allowing past trauma to dictate your present. If I was able to make changes, so can you.

If you perceive stress as a motivator instead of negative stimulus, then challenging it will be beneficial rather than harmful, especially when dealing with your PTSD symptoms.

How Stress Fuels Your PTSD

Stress is an intricate part of living with PTSD, and managing it is perhaps the most vital component of your life as a person with this disorder. In some form or another and whether you want it or not, stress is present in the life of a person with PTSD every single day.

Trying to manage the symptoms associated with PTSD creates anxiety on a person who’s already ‘on edge.’ Excessive anxiety, which can be attributed to lack of control of PTSD symptoms (no coping mechanisms, skills, or techniques) can exponentially increase stress and turn dangerous for your health.

To take control of your life and master your balancing act, you need skills. As with everything in life, you’ll need to work on honing your skills; in this case: coping skills. Through a combination of skills learned in this guide, along with therapy and medication, as necessary, you’ll be able to craft a daily routine and a plan of attack to help manage, mitigate, and defuse anxiety and stress associated with your PTSD.

By reading this guide you are learning how to disembowel your PTSD and its symptoms. The knowledge and understanding that you can beat the disorder will make you a fearless warrior who can turn PTSD symptoms into life skills. For example, you can learn to turn your hypervigilance into situational awareness, which will help you reduce problems with other PTSD symptoms.

In other words, instead of being in a constant state of hyperarousal and anxiety, you will learn to use that ‘alarm’ stage to stay alert and be aware of your surroundings without letting it increase your anxiety. Remember, you are not always in danger, and you must engrave this in your mind so that it can trickle down into your actions.

Stress & Psychological Symptoms


As a person with PTSD, you are already struggling with frequent and acute symptoms of anxiety. Often, unmanaged anxiety can lead people with PTSD to rely on methods of coping that are not beneficial. Without proper coping mechanisms, your anxiety will only increase in frequency and intensity, and you won’t be able to tolerate it. Learning to manage your levels of anxiety is related to your ability to manage all your PTSD symptoms and reduce your chances of having serious health related problems later on. Remember that you will not be able to eliminate your anxiety, as it plays an essential adaptive role for your survival.


Avoidance is a big problem symptom for PTSD sufferers, and stress can really halt your progress away from the cluster of issues that avoidance brings to your life. When you are trying to reduce or eliminate exposure and reaction to anxiety-provoking situations, people, or objects, any additional or unmanaged stress can absolutely affect your efforts. If a perceived situation creates anxiety, a person may try to avoid it. Although avoidance may prove to be a plausible escape for certain situations, it neglects to deal with the root cause of the anxiety. For example, if you’re nervous because you have a huge presentation at work, you may choose to call in sick to avoid the stress of being in front of colleagues, and schedule the presentation for another day, or try to have a coworker do it. An often common example for PTSD sufferers is to avoid thinking about something which causes anxiety, preferring to leave it unresolved instead of confronting it and dealing with it. Breaking down avoidant behaviors takes time and effort, and unmanaged stress will only negatively feed your arousal of recollection of the trauma. Stress will almost certainly work against or even worsen your avoidance symptoms.


Whether the depression led you to having more traumatic experiences and develop PTSD, or the symptoms of PTSD are so upsetting that you develop depression, additional stress will worsen your depression. Depression is fairly common among people with PTSD, and stress can negatively feed your depression making you feel detached and disconnected from family and friends, and unable to find pleasure in activities you previously enjoyed. When you are already working hard at experiencing positive emotions such as happiness and joy, stress can fuel your depression, enhancing negative emotions like loneliness and sadness, which can lead you to further isolate yourself.

Emotional Numbing

Avoidance is a faulty coping mechanism that makes you emotionally flat and unavailable to all who care about you, and it’s a serious problem if you have unmanaged stress. Emotional numbing is a destructive coping strategy that offers temporary relief. If paired with unmanaged stress, your avoidance can seriously exacerbate your fear, shame, and sadness, which can lead to you become reclusive isolate yourself from the things that are unpleasant or bring on painful emotions. This usually includes socializing. When your stress is under control, painful emotions can be addressed without causing chaos, but additional stress can further strengthen negative emotions, leading you to seclude yourself from things, places, and people by becoming emotionally numb about them.


Coping with flashbacks can be a daunting task for anyone with PTSD. This disconnect from reality is more challenging when your stress is unmanaged. Coping with flashbacks while trying to manage stress will only worsen the situation. During flashbacks, unmanaged stress can worsen the feelings of disconnect from the surroundings, and for some, can lead to dissociation. Additional stress can also make you have stronger negative reactions to triggers, and it can become very unpredictable and disruptive.

Guilt & Shame

As a PTSD sufferer, You are already trying to manage your guilt and shame. While guilt and shame are important emotional responses present in many of the symptoms and side effects associated with PTSD, additional or unmanaged stress can make guilt and shame greatly interfere with your recovery. Stress can make it difficult for you to get past your negative experiences, and this will fuel your guilt and shame, making it difficult to move forward.

Intrusive Thoughts

You should already know that intrusive thoughts are all those repetitive thoughts, images, or mental impulses that are unacceptable and unwanted because they disrupt your life. When it comes to managing, controlling, and wanting to get rid of intrusive thoughts that your brain perceives as threatening or dangerous, stress is almost certainly your worst enemy. Trying to be mindful of your thought process so that the unexpected, unannounced, and unwelcome thoughts don’t creep up into your head and affect your emotions and behavior is difficult. Attempting to accomplish this with unmanaged stress will be almost impossible, as the stress won’t allow you to anticipate or manage any thoughts that come to your head, or give you a chance to take appropriate action to avoid them or lessen their impact on your behavior and emotions.


Repression, is when a person with PTSD attempts to block painful memories as a distraction.  Repression is particularly dangerous for people with anger control issues, and additional unmanaged stress can turn repression into a time bomb. If you have a high risk job or conflicting situations that generally increase your stress, learning to eliminate your desire to repress memories is paramount. If you don’t, additional stress can have serious negative effects on your behavior. Remember that repressed memories don’t cease to exist, and additional stress can make them reappear in a jiffy, even with triggers that would normally not result in your losing your temper.


When sharing time with others is already exhausting, upsetting, and requires too much effort, additional stress will affect your withdrawal symptoms. Actively avoiding people and activities you once enjoyed only offers temporary relief and can be manageable to a certain extent. But allowing your stress levels to get out of control will worsen withdrawal symptoms and lead you to depression, or worse, if You are already dealing with it. Depression brought on by additional stress will almost certainly turn you into a reclusive person, borderline antisocial, and can affect your work, finances, family life, putting you in a bad state of mind and place in life. This is why managing stress when you have PTSD is so important.

Stress & Behavioral Symptoms

Alcohol & Drug Abuse

Research shows that the majority of people with PTSD resort to self-medicating with drugs and alcohol at one point or another. Unmanaged stress will undoubtedly serve as the avenue that leads many PTSD sufferers to drink excessive amounts of alcohol, use unnecessary OTC medications, or get hooked on illegal substances they will later have a hard time getting unhooked from. Self-medicating does not effectively address any PTSD symptoms, immediate or future, nor does it ameliorate any feelings of guilt and shame. Instead, it can serve as fuel for any anger related issues you might have, feeding any extreme rage problems you might have, and result in a trickle down of negative effects on your ability to manage your behavior and PTSD symptoms.

Extreme Rage

For some PTSD sufferers, huge amounts of anger over a minor event can turn almost anything into a life or death situation. This is particularly true if the person doesn’t have coping skills and mechanisms in place to save the day. It is not a joke. When any little thing has the potential of becoming a huge trigger, things can go bad very fast.

If you have high hyperarousal, avoidance and irritability issues, difficulty concentrating, You are easily startled, and usually feel on edge or on guard, then You are at a higher risk of exploding with extreme rage over matters that should otherwise be non issues, or could easily be resolved.

Feelings of Helplessness

People with PTSD already live on a constant and daily struggle with their symptoms, where almost nothing seems positive, and there’s no clear path ahead. Unmanaged stress can truly affect your feelings of hopelessness in a very negative way. When your mood is down, your PTSD symptoms will encourage you to isolate yourself from healthy relationships and even give up hope. Don’t fade away because of your PTSD stress. Even when things are not running smoothly, don’t let those “flare ups” lead you to self-medicating or other stupid behaviors that can trump your progress, and only take away from your ability to live to your fullest potential. Constant stress tends to give those who don’t have a handle on it deep feelings of hopelessness. If you live under constant stress, your outlook on things will be in line with your state of mind.


Heightened anxiety and altered arousal make the cluster of hyperarousal symptoms. They are bad news and they can be difficult to manage. Unmanaged hyperarousal can lead you to have severe sleeping difficulties. Lack of proper sleep can have detrimental effects on your memory and concentration, and can negatively affect your anger. In other words, a high level of hyperarousal can greatly affect your impulsive behavior. Managing your anxiety to reduce hyperarousal symptoms will keep your impulsive behaviors to a minimum.


You’ve been up all day because your brain won’t shut off. You are tired and desperately need to rest, but you can’t fall asleep because you cannot calm your brain down long enough to allow your mind to rest and finally be able to fall asleep. Insomnia is a very common symptom among people with PTSD, and stress will have tremendous negative impact on your sleep patterns. Unmanaged stress will worsen your insomnia, and lack of sleep will negatively affect your stress. The only solution to this paradox is to get a hold of your stress levels to reduce the anxiety that makes your mind work overtime.


Irritability is a hyperarousal symptom of PTSD, and it’s incredibly exacerbated by unmanaged or uncontrolled stress. If you think of stress and anxiety as fuel for your hyperarousal symptoms, then you’ll understand how stress can affect your irritability. When You are already working hard at not being in a constant state of fear and anxiety, any additional (out of control) stress will make you more anxious. Anxiety will make you feel more ‘on edge,’ which will worsen your hyperarousal and shorten your tolerance level, making you more irritable.


Isolation is one of the most frightening symptoms of PTSD because it keeps sufferers from seeking positive human connections necessary for life and healing. For those with PTSD, nearly every sight, sound, touch, or smell can be perceived as negative stimuli and can trigger a desire to stay away from others. Unmanaged stress will exponentially exacerbate a person’s desire to pull away from everyone. When thoughts, feelings, and emotions are affected by unmanaged stress, isolation comes up as the only solution to avoid being judged, ostracized, or criticized for actions you are having zero control over at the moment. Many people with PTSD isolate themselves to avoid others, but many others isolate themselves because they get bottled up in guilt and shame and don’t want to be a burden for others.

Lack of Appetite

Stress can have many angles of manifestation, and affecting your appetite is definitely one of them. Lack of appetite is a symptom of anxiety, and if you have unmanaged stress, it can affect even your desire to eat one grape. It may be that you just don’t feel like eating, or have no desire to eat. It could be that You are not hungry, or the thought of food is unappealing or makes you nauseous. Maybe you can’t stand the taste of food. Whatever method it chooses to manifest, the end result  of unmanaged stress affecting your appetite is that your body is not receiving sufficient, or any food at all. Bringing your anxiety levels down will help you get rid of appetite related issues. To bring your anxiety down, you must manage your stress levels. Nutrition is important for PTSD healing.

Low Self-Esteem

Research shows that the majority of people with PTSD resort to self-medicating with drugs and alcohol at one point or another. Unmanaged stress will undoubtedly serve as the avenue that leads many PTSD sufferers to drink excessive amounts of alcohol, use unnecessary OTC medications, or get hooked on illegal substances they will later have a hard time getting unhooked from. Self-medicating does not effectively address any PTSD symptoms, immediate or future, nor does it ameliorate any feelings of guilt and shame. Instead, it can serve as fuel for any anger related issues you might have, feeding any extreme rage problems you might have, and result in a trickle down of negative effects on your ability to manage your behavior and PTSD symptoms.


PTSD has a unique way of making bad dreams turn into extremely disturbing nightmares, and unmanaged stress will make them feel more like the Nightmare on Elm Street. Whether your nightmares are trauma related or you find yourself in some other type of bad situation, PTSD nightmares are no joke, and not managing your stress and anxiety levels can greatly exacerbate their intensity and frequency. This will keep from getting the rest your body and mind need, and could lead to other dysfunctions and health related problems.


Stress can have many angles of manifestation, and affecting your appetite is definitely one of them. Overeating is another anxiety based issue for PTSD sufferers, and when they are stressed, it worsens. People who overeat often do it as a reward system. Although it’s more prevalent in PTSD sufferers with childhood related trauma, binge eating can affect all walks of PTSD people. Dealing with PTSD symptoms is difficult enough, but when you are over stressed it may seem as if nothing you do is remotely rewarding. This is when people resort to eating as a self-soothing technique to calm their pain.

But overeating is terrible for your health, and you already know that nutrition is paramount for healing from your PTSD symptoms. Bringing your anxiety levels down will help you get rid of appetite related issues. To bring your anxiety down, you must manage your stress levels. Nutrition is important for PTSD healing.

Short Fuse

Whether it’s quick to anger or quick to break out in tears, unmanaged stress and out of control rage can lead anyone with PTSD to walk around with a short fuse. But a ‘hair-trigger temper’ that is on attack mode all the time puts PTSD sufferers at risk of exploding in anger over non-issues, as they feel on edge all the time because unmanaged stress doesn’t allow them to escape angering thoughts.

Stress & Physical Symptoms



When it comes to PTSD symptoms, headaches don’t generally get a lot of attention, as sufferers (and their therapists) are preoccupied with other symptoms they believe can cause more distress. However, it’s paramount to understand the connection between PTSD and headaches. The presence of headaches for PTSD sufferers puts them at a higher risk of developing a variety of other physical problems, including overall physical pain. From tension to migraine to cluster, all headaches are much worse when the PTSD sufferer is under high levels of stress, regardless of source. You may have limited control over headaches caused by underlying medical conditions, but you can help your PTSD related headaches by knowing what makes them worse.

Tension Headache:

  • You are sensitive to sound or light, but not to both at the same time
  • You feel a feeling of swelling or fullness in your head
  • Your appetite has been reduced
  • Unlike migraines, tension headache pain does not get worse with physical activity
  • Starting at your forehead and going back, you feel a painful tight/pressure sensation on both sides of your head
  • You feel radiating pain on your neck, shoulders, or both
  • Your headache or head related pain can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 7 day


  • You are sensitive to light (photophobia) and sound (phonophobia)
  • Suggestive emotional changes 2 days prior to the beginning of the migraine that include: increase in urinary frequency, stiff neck, constant yawning, feeling dehydrated and thirsty, having sudden food craving, or retaining fluid.
  • Your sense of smell increases
  • You feel pulsating/throbbing pain on one or both sides of your head
  • Your nauseous, and feel like vomiting
  • You are experiencing visual changes, dizziness, speech problems, confusion, feeling of numbness and tingling in parts of your body
  • Physical activity worsens the pain
  • You are having difficulty concentrating
  • You are in emotional distress
  • Afterwards, you have a sort of ‘migraine hangover,’ feeling fatigued, irritable, or euphoric. This is known as ‘postdrome.’

Cluster Headache:

  • Excruciating (almost knife piercing) headache, usually centered on your temples or eye
  • You may have symptoms similar to a migraine (light and sound sensitivity, nausea, visual changes)
  • Your face flushes, you sweat, or both
  • You feel restless and agitated
  • Your headaches come in bursts, anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes
  • You have physical symptoms such as runny nose, watery eyes, eyelid and face swelling, all on the same side as the head pain

Managing Headaches:

The most important component of managing anything related to your headaches, their frequency, and severity, is to get your stress levels under control and to a manageable state. Unless your headaches have an underlying medical component, managing your stress is the most immediate and fast acting approach to your head pain problems. In addition to stress reducing techniques, having effective and healthy stress reducing coping strategies will help you maintain your PTSD symptoms under control, and taking control your symptoms will have a positive impact on other issues such as anxiety and depression. High levels of stress are related to headaches, but if you have persistent headaches that won’t go aways despite your best efforts, it is important that you visit a doctor and address any possible underlying medical issues.

Muscle Pain

PTSD sufferers have an obvious connection to pain because the physical impact of trauma can cause pain. From the immediate physical effects and injury, to symptoms that can progress later on, pain is a common denominator among many people diagnosed with PTSD, regardless of type and duration of trauma. As a dominant side effect of living with PTSD and unmanaged stress, muscle pain can turn into a chronic condition that can trickle down into severe health related problems. For PTSD sufferers, muscle pain is directly related to the traumatic experience, and it serves as a reminder of the event, which can intensify other symptoms of PTSD. Muscle pain is caused by a continued state of anxiety, because hypervigilance keeps your muscles tightened, which keeps your muscles and joints from relaxing.

Rapid Heart Rate

Your anxiety levels and how you perceive and respond to the environment affect your heart rate. People with PTSD live in a constant state of hypervigilance and hyperarousal, trying to watch for danger all around them at all times. Their fight-or-flight response system is always on high alert, which leads to an increase in their heart rate. Not having coping mechanisms and learned skills can be detrimental for PTSD sufferers, and can greatly affect their heart as, without skills, they don’t have escape mechanisms to understand that they are not always in danger, not allowing for their rapid heart rate to decrease. Constant activation of the fight-or-flight response will prolong rapid heart rate problems and may lead to other medical issues, or exacerbate other existing conditions the PTSD sufferer might have.

Vomiting & Diarrhea

Vomiting and diarrhea are common occurrences for PTSD sufferers because they are common symptoms of anxiety and stress. As a PTSD sufferer you know these symptoms all too well. Anxiety kicks in and with it an unsettled feeling  in the stomach, followed by an urge to vomit. That awful rolling feeling in the pit of your stomach, warm, yet quite uncomfortable that comes and goes, occurs frequently, and seems to persist indefinitely. After the surge of feelings in your stomach, your anxiety can escalate or reduce. Vomiting and diarrhea can precede, accompany, or follow and anxiety episode. Elevated and unmanaged stress will make these occur out of the blue and for no apparent reason, and will also affect their intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe if you cannot regain control of the moment.

Stress Can Be Good, But...

Managing stress will undoubtedly have a positive impact on your PTSD life because stress is not always bad.

Stress readies the body system to become more alert and energetic. It ca increase mental ability, make your nervous system work faster, motivate, thrill, and invigorate you. But stress doesn’t have the same effect on everyone. For a person with PTSD to reap any positive benefits stress might bring to their lives, they must learn to manage their stress levels by addressing the sources.

Learning to manage stress will reduce anxiety, help pump energy, and boost your output levels. This is helpful for PTSD sufferers because it shortens the usual angry or uncontrolled reaction to negative stimuli.  Managing stress is rooted in understanding that not every stimulus is a negative one, and that even negative provocations should not produce an equally negative reaction. Understand (and convince yourself) that you are not always in imminent danger. Don’t let trauma dictate your actions and fuel your stress. It is not always necessary to gather all your resources and fight back or run away from the perceived danger.

  • People with PTSD can have negative effects to unmanaged stress. Increased stress levels promote:
    • pessimism, anger, distrust, rejection, and depression.
  • For people with PTSD, stress can have a psychosomatic manifestation:
    • From a mild headache to a monster migraine.
    • From high blood pressure to constipation.
    • From lack of sleep to lack of appetite.
    • From heart diseases to ulcers.
    • From stomach upsets to sleep deprivation
    • Even full-blown strokes or ischemic attacks.

Managing and controlling your body/mind reactions associated with stress can be accomplished by first identifying the personal [unique] warning signs and signals that stress is imminent.

You can then use this information to anticipate your behavior by incorporating, implementing, and practicing defense mechanisms, techniques, skills, and tricks that will help you build resistance against your own negative mind/body reactions

Every person with PTSD functions different, and your approach to managing stress must be custom tailored to your needs and based on the information gathered (through self-monitoring) about what “ticks” you. Keep in mind that stress can manifest in a variety of forms.

I mentioned issues like rapid heartbeat, dizziness, body and muscle aches, sleeplessness, and stomach upsets, because I have firsthand experience with these. However, stress has the potential of having far reaching negative physical effects on a PTSD person.

Paying immediate attention to your body’s warning signs and learn to anticipate the effect that it can have on your body and ability to react properly, you will slowly arm yourself with powerful tools to build resistance against stress.

A healthy body and mind are geared to handle stress. A PTSD body and mind must learn to manage the negative effects and far reaching influences of stress to stay in control and balanced.

PTSD & Unmanaged Stress

Earlier you read that stress is the effect that external or internal forces can have on our physical and emotional well-being.

PTSD sufferers know very well how to describe the effects that symptoms have on them, but not always good at preventing internal and external stressors from negatively affecting the senses and impacting their day.

To understand the specific effects that external and internal stimulus have on your PTSD brain, it is important to analyze all possible sources of stress in your life, so that you can carefully take it apart piece by piece, at each individual level and learn how it all impacts you personally. This information will help you draft a custom-tailored healing system that works for you.

Unmanaged stress will put additional strain on your mental health, because stress can alter the body and mind. Allowing your stress to get out of control will further affect your behavior. Unmanaged stress will lead to additional tension, anxiety, anger, and depression at a time when you are already struggling with managing your PTSD symptoms. When your stress gets the best of you and your handle on PTSD, you will behave abnormally. You’ll feel fatigued, have poor concentration and a decline in memory power. You’ll have difficulty making decisions and will feel hopeless.

Unmanaged stress will affect your thoughts and behavior. It will lead to mental fatigue, decline in memory power, poor concentration, indecisiveness, and hopelessness. If untreated, it could lead you to self-medicate yourself through negative behaviors.

Unmanaged stress is responsible for many sexual problems. Stress can ruin your sexual life. Men can have difficulty having erections. Women can experience changes in their menstrual cycle, and be at risk of fibroid tumors and endometriosis due to hormonal imbalances. Acute stress can lead to infertility in both men and women.

Unmanaged stress can cause heart disease. If you have heart disease and PTSD, it is imperative that you get your stress under control. Your life depends on it. Stress affects your heartbeat and blood pressure. It can also affect the body’s cholesterol levels.

Unmanaged stress will turn into distress. It will disturb the internal balance and processes of your body, resulting in anger, anxiety, tension, and depression. If untreated, it will have severe physical and mental health effect on you.

Unmanaged stress can give you insomnia because your brain is active all the time. It can become a chronic condition and be your new norm, no sleep. Without sleep, your body and mind won’t get the rest and relaxation they need to help you function.

Unmanaged stress may lead to several physical problems and disorders. Stress has been linked to the top six causes of death: cancer, heart disease, lung problems, liver issues, accidents, and suicide. If untreated, stress will go far beyond just giving you faster heart beats, stomach upsets, and muscle tension. If intense and persistent, stress will give you scores of serious physical problems.

Unmanaged stress can severely affect your immune system. You need your immune system to help protect you against illnesses and disorders. Chronic stress will first attack your body at the cellular level, then trickle down to the overall functions of your system. The stress response produces cortisol, which shuts down your body’s natural defense mechanisms. You lose your capacity to naturally fend off physical illnesses such as colds, flu, and infections.

Unmanaged stress can affect your digestive system. Stress slows down the release of your stomach’s acids, preventing the stomach from properly emptying. Contrarily, certain hormones released by the body during the stress response can make your colon work faster, which ends in diarrhea.

Unmanaged stress can affect your weight, especially if You are already struggling with an eating disorder. Since your body releases the hormone cortisol, it increases appetite by stimulating your metabolism. This usually results in an increase in body weight, putting you at risk for diabetes and heart related problems.  But if You are like me, stress will make you lose appetite, which decreases your body weight, weakening your system, and making you more susceptible to illness.

How to Build Resistance

How to Build Resintance

Paying immediate attention to your body’s warning signs is paramount to controlling your reaction to stressors and negative stimuli.

This applies to everyone, whether they have a PTSD diagnosis or not. But what if I told you that your diet and daily routine play a very important role in the way your PTSD brain receives and processes stress? A balanced nutrition is important for everyone who wants to live a full and healthy life, but mandatory for those affected by PTSD’s symptoms.

Incorporating a well-balanced diet with real nutritional value, together with breathing and physical exercises, as well as meditation and visualization techniques to boost your concentration levels and positive attitude towards life will go a long way to improve your quality of life.

When people with PTSD are under stress, they can have frequent, and severe, disagreements with family members, friends, coworkers, and loved ones. If that person has not learned to manage stress, these quarrels can turn into serious overreactions over trivial matters, out of control arguments, or even violent or aggressive outbursts.

Stressful events like these can lead many people with PTSD to shy off from social activities (emotional numbing), change jobs frequently, drive like maniacs, and put real strains on personal and professional relationships.

Continuous exposure to stress and failure to recognize warning signs could also be the beginning of a hospital trip, many therapy sessions, additional medicines, or a lifetime of health issues.

  • Poor stress management negatively affects concentration and performance.
  • Poor stress management affects relationships.
  • Poor stress management increases your chances of tripping, falling, or having a car accident.
  • Poor stress management will make you grow more gray hairs, wrinkles, and even acne.

When you can pinpoint, identify, and address the cause of your stress, you’ll be able to cope with it.

Be mindful that learning to manage and cope with stress does not translate into changing events that happened in your life, and for which you had no control. It also doesn’t mean you will have no stress. You cannot move on and properly mold the present chapter in your life when you keep re-reading the last one, which was less than ideal.

Learning to cope with stress may not take the harrowing memories away, but it will undoubtedly give you the necessary tools to control the things you do have the power and ability to control, instead of letting them ruin your day and severely affect your life and that of your friends, family, and coworkers.

Not allowing PTSD to rule your life takes planning, effort, and understanding of the fundamentals of the disorder. Controlling the stress in your life must include components that teach life building skills you can use to create techniques that will help you build resistance against stress.