How Does PTSD Change A Person?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a devastating condition that can dramatically change a person’s personality, behaviors, and core sense of self. PTSD develops after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event like combat, sexual assault, a natural disaster, or terrorist attack. While many recover within months, for some the symptoms persist for years or even a lifetime. Living with PTSD can make you feel like a different person than you were before the trauma occurred. Here’s an overview of some of the profound ways PTSD alters a survivor at their very core:

Loss of Safety and Trust

One of the hallmark symptoms of PTSD is a pervasive feeling of danger, vulnerability and lack of safety. Trauma shatters your belief that the world is safe and people can be trusted. After trauma, you see threats everywhere and become convinced that another disaster is just around the corner. This constant state of hypervigilance and anxiety keeps your body’s fight-or-flight system stuck in overdrive. You no longer feel at ease anywhere and see most people as potential threats rather than comforts. Rebuilding a sense of safety after trauma takes time.

Emotional Numbing and Withdrawal

Many people with PTSD cope by going numb. They shut down emotionally, isolate from others, and narrow their lives to avoid feeling vulnerable again. While numbing and withdrawal help manage overwhelming emotions in the short-term, long-term they prevent you from experiencing positive emotions and connecting with others. This avoidance cuts you off from sources of support, joy, and fulfillment. Eventually, emotional numbness drains the vibrancy out of life.

Loss of Self-Worth and Purpose

PTSD often wreaks havoc on a person’s self-esteem. Trauma challenges your fundamental beliefs that the world is just, life is meaningful, and you have control. Surviving trauma makes you question your worth and purpose. You may internalize victim-blaming attitudes and feel defective, helpless, guilty or ashamed about what happened. Without counseling, these cognitive distortions can lead trauma survivors to draw damning conclusions about themselves and their identity.

Personality Changes

The chronic stress of PTSD can dramatically impact the brain over time. One review found that trauma is linked to shrinkage in brain regions tied to memory processing and emotion regulation. Brain changes like these contribute to personality alterations seen in PTSD like:

  • Increased anger, irritability, aggression
  • Lack of patience, tolerance and empathy
  • Diminished interest in activities and hobbies
  • Social detachment and isolation

Without treatment, some trauma survivors describe feeling like a stranger to themselves – quick to anger, indifferent to others, and disconnected.

Changes in Worldview

Trauma often sparks deep existential questions about fairness, justice, and humanity at large. When something horrific happens, you search for meaning and explanation. Without counseling, many draw negative conclusions like:

  • People are selfish, dangerous and untrustworthy
  • The world is relentlessly cruel and unjust
  • Life has no real purpose or meaning

PTSD can shatter your core assumptions that gave you hope, optimism and direction. Over time, pervasive cynicism, nihilism and resentment take root. Restoring a more balanced perspective takes time and healing.

In summary, PTSD can transform individuals by robbing them of safety, joy, purpose and trust. Without proper treatment, survivors describe feeling detached from the person they were before. But the good news is PTSD doesn’t have to define you forever. With counseling, medication, time, and intention, your natural personality can re-emerge. Healing will help you reclaim your sense of self-worth, relationships, and meaning.