Signs Appear Immediately Following The Trauma?It is a common misconception that symptoms of PTSD appear immediately after trauma. Actually, this fallacy couldn't be further from the truth.
Research to date tends to generally state that symptoms will appear within 3 months of the trauma. Don't confound that as, "I 'll have all symptoms to meet PTSD within 3 months." That isn't what I'm saying, nor what current research discusses. This exact data is cited by the National Institute of Mental Health.
There isn't any single authoritative solution to when symptoms appear or how many will show up and when. The most common thought in the field is that someone may have one or more symptoms within 3 months. Think about it like this -- you may lose sleep immediately, have terrible dreams. That's one symptom, and it would be natural to experience sleeplessness and nightmares after experiencing trauma. That subsides, and then you may find that you just isolate yourself a month later -- another symptom. You may have a really tough week on the job then explode at someone. You've never done that after a rough week, but it occurred this some months after your wounding occasion. This is another symptom.
All the above are single, isolated symptoms of PTSD. You'ren't experiencing those symptoms concurrently. You experience them as isolated seemingly dissonant, occasions. You may experience them simultaneously, yet they're still a mere three symptoms of many needed for a PTSD diagnosis. This is what most research points to in relation to having symptoms within the first 3 months after your stabbing exposure.
Without experiencing the symptoms required to satisfy diagnosis having PTSD, isn't all that different --on a much smaller scale -- from how we experience viral infections. You may contract a virus from your kid on a Sunday, incubate it for 5 days with no symptoms, and experience the symptoms the following weekend. You were contagious and carried the virus all week, but how could you possibly know? Maybe you felt a bit of a sore throat as the week wore on or had some sniffles, but it's the right time of year. It doesn't mean you didn't have a virus, only that you did not match with the telltale signals you'd need to seek help and subsequently get treatment.
On a larger scale, how about sufferers of dementia? Many individuals with dementia experience a few symptoms for months or even years before realizing there's a real problem going on. They become disoriented every now and again or lose their balance. If they are of a particular age, stumbling here and there or sometimes being forgetful doesn't set off any alarm bells, the same way that being anxious or on guard following injury is a perfectly non-pathological response to lately experiencing trauma. It often takes more time, and definitely requires more symptoms before discovering you have a long-term problem, even if you do in fact already have the disease to be ticked off.
MyPTSD has polled this exact question for 9 years, to further illustrate the variability for when symptoms start. Our member poll results, those people who have answered, reveal that 31% experience symptoms in the first three months, with 49% taking longer than 12 months.
Our results show a much broader result set taken at the time of writing this article over 9 years. If one statement was made by MyPTSD, as other sources state that is important and the NIMH, then our view would be that the majority of folks take longer than 12 months to experience symptoms.
This perspective aligns with resilience data (also cited by NIMH) that the majority of people exposed to traumatic stress disorder trauma don't develop PTSD, let alone symptoms that would be viewed as a mental health condition. PTSD from an individual occasion is much scarcer than PTSD from compounded wounding occasions throughout life.
In short, the myth that PTSD appears following a traumatic event has little basis in reality. Without developing full blown PTSD sufferers can go years, even decades. Build a community around themselves of encouraging, compassionate people that are both trustworthy and understanding and the best thing trauma survivors can do is to get help as quickly as possible. This base of support will function as a resiliency tool, and it can be invaluable in helping those who experience trauma return to a sense of normalcy. The truthfulness of others, coupled with compassion, can function as a check against uncharacteristic and irrational behaviour -- an extra set of eyes to track the survivor for indications of a growing difficulty. Moreover, seeking a professional's help following trauma has benefits that are clear and manifold, whether to help mitigate developing symptoms with drugs or simply function as a guide to return to a steady, healthy lifestyle post-trauma.