Does PTSD change your personality? (3 insights)

This blog post aims to answer the question, “Does PTSD change your personality?”, explore the concepts of personality, personality change and Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and study the impact of the disorder on personality to help understand the answer. 

Does PTSD change your personality?

Yes, PTSD can change your personality. The following are 3 insights into how PTSD can change your personality –

  • PTSD can have a long-term effect, causing a person’s ability to function to alter.
  • Long-term challenges may lead to chronic maladaptive behaviour patterns. 
  • Three different personality-based PTSD subtypes.

What are these 3 insights into how PTSD can change your personality?

PTSD can have a long-term effect, causing a person’s ability to function to alter.

According to statistics from throughout the world, a huge proportion of people suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after experiencing a traumatic experience. PTSD can have a long-term effect, causing a person’s ability to function to alter.

The majority of healthy people do not develop posttraumatic stress disorder; however, if an individual has been exposed to a traumatic event associated with violence and conflict situations as a child, such as a war, a concentration camp, rape, domestic violence, or bullying, the chances of developing this disorder are higher.

According to research, males are more likely to be subjected to traumatic events than women, but women are more likely to acquire stress-related disorders after being exposed to traumatic events such as family violence, child loss, rape, and so on.

According to ICD 10, if psychological issues persist for years after a traumatic incident has survived, maladaptive forms of behaviour emerge, including specific challenges in social and personal functioning that result in long-term personality changes.

According to research, PTSD is most common in people who have been exposed to severe stress associated with violence, such as when the victims’ or their close relatives’ or friends’ lives were in danger, or when they were threatened, tortured, molested, or lost a close family member or friend suddenly.

Long-term challenges may lead to chronic maladaptive behaviour patterns. 

These people have a paranoid attitude toward their surroundings, a sense of unease, social disengagement, work-related dysfunction, and impatience, and are prone to interpersonal disputes. They also have a low threshold for irritating situations.

Following a period of high stress, posttraumatic stress disorder poses a danger of long-term personality changes with substantial personal and societal effects.

The majority of the research that looked at personality traits as risk and protective variables for PTSD looked at the connection between fundamental personality dimensions and the severity of PTSD symptoms. 

Three types of methodological designs were used in these research: cross-sectional, post-trauma, and pre-trauma longitudinal investigations, with the latter being the least prevalent.

The finding that PTSD is positively associated with negative emotionality, neuroticism, harm avoidance, novelty seeking, and self-transcendence, as well as trait hostility/anger and trait anxiety, appears to be quite consistent. 

Extraversion, conscientiousness, self-directedness, the combination of high positive and low negative emotionality, as well as toughness and optimism, are all adversely connected with PTSD symptoms, but posttraumatic development is inversely related to most of these qualities.

Three different personality-based PTSD subtypes.

In addition, several investigations have verified the existence of three different personality-based PTSD subtypes: internalising, externalising, and low pathology PTSD.

These findings may aid in the discovery of further etiological pathways as well as the development of novel techniques for preventing, identifying, and reducing health risks in this trauma group, as well as enabling possible posttraumatic growth. 

However, concentrating on a single factor will prevent us from gaining a thorough understanding of the genesis, development, and treatment of PTSD.

What is personality change?

Personality characteristics are broad categories of individual variations that relate to how we interact with our social environments. They support our ability to think, behave, and feel consistently in a variety of contexts and across time.

Early childhood temperament variations, which are partially genetically driven and influence exposure to social situations, are assumed to be the source of adult personality characteristics. There are five personality dimensions in all.

The five factors are: “extraversion or positive emotionality (incorporating traits such as sociability, energy, shyness and dominance/subordination); neuroticism or negative emotionality (including lower‐order traits such as proneness to anxiety, irritability, sadness, insecurity and guilt); conscientiousness (factors such as reliability, carefulness, persistence and self‐control); agreeableness (cooperativeness, consideration, generosity, kindness and politeness); and openness to experience (imaginativeness, insight and aesthetic sensitivity)”. 

Individuals differ in all of these characteristics, therefore each individual is regarded to have a unique set of traits. Personality factors influence the quality of social and familial connections, marital status and satisfaction, career choices, political opinions, and crime with moderate consistency.

Your personality might evolve during the course of your life. It’s natural to have mood swings from time to time. Unusual personality changes, on the other hand, might be an indication of a physical or mental problem.

A personality shift can manifest itself in a number of ways –

  • A personality shift is indicated by behaviour that differs from how you would normally behave in the same situation.
  • A person’s mood, aggression, or euphoria are abnormally moody, aggressive, or euphoric in comparison to their regular behaviour in comparable conditions, indicating a personality shift.

Examples of personality change –

  • Being unconcerned in conditions that would typically induce anxiety or worry.
  • Being glad when hearing bad news.

What can cause a sudden personality change?

While a gradual shift in personality isn’t uncommon, an accident or sickness might create an abrupt transformation.

A generally joyful individual might become depressed as a result of grief, unpleasant news, or disappointment. After hearing the sad news, a person’s mood might be affected for weeks or months.

Some people have had bizarre or aberrant behaviour for years, which might be caused by disease or injury. After being exposed to a stressful scenario or seeing an unpleasant incident, a person’s demeanour may shift.

These behavioural changes may be caused by a mental health condition, such as –

Anxiety.

When a person feels apprehensive or unpleasant about a situation, they are said to be anxious. It’s natural to feel anxious from time to time, but when it happens without warning, it might be an indication of generalised anxiety disorder.

Panic attacks.

Panic episodes are intense bouts of dread. Fear might appear to be illogical at times. A person suffering a panic attack while seeing an elevator or speaking in public is an example of such a circumstance.

Post-traumatic stress disorder.

This mental health disease, also known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is characterised by acute terror, flashbacks, and, in some cases, hallucinations. Traumatic memories, such as a terrorist attack or a vehicle accident, might cause PTSD.

Bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is characterised by mood swings that are intense. Mood swings may range from exhilaration to severe sadness, and they might modify how a person reacts to specific encounters or events, depending on their mood.

Schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia makes it difficult to think clearly, interpret circumstances efficiently, behave appropriately in social situations, and discern what is genuine from what isn’t.

Strange or odd behaviour might be caused by medical problems that cause hormone levels to fluctuate. These conditions include –

  • menopause
  • premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • andropause (male menopause)
  • hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism (an overactive or underactive thyroid gland, respectively)

Medical emergencies that can cause strange or unusual behaviour include-

  • heart attack
  • stroke
  • dehydration
  • malnutrition

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health illness brought on by watching or experiencing a horrific incident. Flashbacks, nightmares, and acute anxiety, as well as uncontrolled thoughts about the incident, are all possible symptoms.

Most people who experience traumatic situations have temporary difficulties adjusting and coping, but they normally get better with time and adequate self-care. 

You may have PTSD if your symptoms worsen, linger for months or even years, and interfere with your day-to-day functioning. It’s crucial to get therapy as soon as PTSD symptoms appear in order to lessen symptoms and enhance function.

Symptoms.

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder can occur as soon as a month after a stressful experience, but they can also take years to appear. 

These symptoms generate major issues in social and work circumstances, as well as in relationships. They might also make it difficult for you to carry out your routine everyday activities.

Intrusive memories, avoidance, unfavourable changes in thought and attitude, and changes in bodily and emotional reactions are the four forms of PTSD symptoms. Symptoms might change over time or from one individual to the next.

Intrusive memories.

Intrusive memories can cause a variety of symptoms, including –

  • Unwanted, uncomfortable recollections of the terrible incident
  • Re-enacting the terrible incident as if it were happening for the first time (flashbacks)
  • Dreams or nightmares concerning the terrible experience are upsetting
  • Physical or mental reactions to something that reminds you of the terrible incident

Avoidance.

The following are some examples of avoidance symptoms –

  • Attempting to avoid thinking about or discussing the painful occurrence
  • Avoiding situations, activities, or people that bring up memories of the terrible occurrence

Negative changes in thinking and mood.

Negative changes in thought and mood can manifest themselves in a variety of ways, including –

  • Negative feelings against oneself, others, or the world
  • Uncertainty about the future
  • Memory issues, such as forgetting critical details about the traumatic incident
  • Maintaining tight connections is difficult
  • Distancing yourself from family and friends
  • Lack of enthusiasm for activities you used to like
  • Positive feelings are difficult to come by
  • I’m experiencing emotional numbness

Changes in physical and emotional reactions.

Changes in physical and emotional responses (also known as arousal symptoms) can cause a variety of symptoms, including –

  • Being easily scared or startled
  • Always on the lookout for danger
  • Self-destructive conduct such as binge drinking or speeding are examples of self-destructive behaviour.
  • Sleeping problems
  • Concentration issues
  • Irritability, furious outbursts, or aggressive conduct are all signs of irritability.
  • Guilt or humiliation that is overwhelming

Signs and symptoms in children 6 years old and younger may include –

  • Using play to reenact the traumatic event or components of the traumatic event
  • Terrifying nightmares that may or may not contain elements of the terrible event

Causes.

When you experience, witness, or learn about an event involving real or threatened death, significant injury, or sexual violation, you may develop post-traumatic stress disorder.

Doctors are baffled as to why certain people get PTSD. PTSD is likely caused by a complicated combination of factors, as is the case with most mental health issues.

  • Stressful events in your life, particularly the number and degree of trauma you’ve experienced
  • Mental health concerns passed down down the generations, such as a family history of anxiety and despair
  • Your temperament is a term used to describe the inherited characteristics of your personality.
  • Your brain’s control over the chemicals and hormones released by your body in reaction to stress.

Conclusion – 

This blog post attempted to answer the question, “Does PTSD change your personality?”, explored the concepts of personality, personality change and Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and studied the impact of the disorder on personality to help determine if PTSD can change your personality. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

References –

Arsova, Slavica et al. “Enduring Personality Changes after Intense Stressful Event: Case Report.” Open access Macedonian journal of medical sciences vol. 4,3 (2016): 453-454. doi:10.3889/oamjms.2016.083. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5042633/#:~:text=CONCLUSION,serious%20individual%20and%20social%20consequences.

Jakšić, Nenad et al. “The role of personality traits in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).” Psychiatria Danubina vol. 24,3 (2012): 256-66. Retrieved from  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23013628/

Munjiza, J., Britvic, D. & Crawford, M.J. Lasting personality pathology following exposure to severe trauma in adulthood: retrospective cohort study. BMC Psychiatry 19, 3 (2019, January 3). Retrieved from 

https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12888-018-1975-5

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018, July 6). Retrieved from 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355967

Barber, N. Trauma Resets Personality. (2012, December 13). Retrieved from 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-human-beast/201212/trauma-resets-personality

Can trauma change your personality? Quora. (n.d.). Retrieved from  https://www.quora.com/Can-trauma-change-your-personality

Peterson, V. 24 Ways Trauma Can Affect Your Personality. (2020, September 16). Retrieved from  https://themighty.com/2020/09/trauma-changes-personality/

Kahn, A. Everything You Want to Know About Personality Change. (2019, December 4). Retrieved from  https://www.healthline.com/health/behavior-unusual-or-strange

Tanaka, G. et al. How Catastrophe Can Change Personality. (2019, September 26).  Retrieved from  https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/how-catastrophe-can-change-personality

Tull, M. The Relationship Between PTSD and Personality Disorders. (2020, November 13).  Retrieved from  https://www.verywellmind.com/the-relationship-between-ptsd-and-personality-disorders-2797147

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