Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms

Three types of symptoms:

Re-experiencing symptoms

These may be triggered by objects, sensory experiences or words which are reminders of the trauma.

Sufferers like Marta may:

  • Experience flashbacks

A reliving of the trauma in the present moment.

Marta has lots of these, triggered by lots of different things, including smoking, certain smells, movements, or things Hector says.

‘I notice the red-rimmed edges of my fingernails…I see a hand, reaching out: the fingers spread open to take [the cigarette]. It is small, with bitten down nails, a silver ring gleaming on the index finger.’

  • Bad dreams

Sleep haunted by remembrances of the event.

Marta has a history of these:

‘I wake up to screaming in the darkness. It is loud, piercing. Soon, the sounds turn into words. Help me, somebody, please.’

Hyperarousal symptoms

  • Have exaggerated reactions to certain stimuli

In the first chapter of How To Be A Good Wife, Marta startles easily when Hector comes home from work.

‘There is a noise at the front door again, and my head rings, as if it was me who took the fall…’READ AN EXTRACT

  • Feel tense or on edge

Marta constantly feels like something is not quite right, or that at any moment she could lose her grip on reality.

‘I put down my spoon, feeling the nausea return.’

  • Experience angry outbursts

During the dinner party scene, Marta is irritable, testing your sympathy for her.

‘I slam the bowl down.  Spots of creamy liquid dot the counter.  “I get it Hector.  You always know what’s good for him, what he wants, and I don’t.”‘


Avoidance symptoms

  • Staying away from places or things which are reminders of the event

Marta avoids the city, partially because Hector has warned her against it, and partly because she knows it causes her to behave oddly.

  • Feeling emotionally numb

Marta’s careful, controlled movements and domestic actions help her to keep a distance from emotions which may leap to the surface.

‘My hands shake as I lift the remaining bowls out of the cupboard.’

  • Feeling strong guilt, depression or worry

When Marta was off her medication, she remembers feeling depressed and distanced from her life.

‘Sometimes I cried without understanding why, and couldn’t stop even with Kylan’s warm body against mine.’

  • Losing interest in things that were enjoyable before the event

  • Difficulty remembering the event itself

If there was a traumatic event, Marta cannot remember it at all at the beginning of the book. It is only though flashbacks that she begins to piece together what has happened to her, and how it differs from what Hector has told her.

Read about Marta’s specific form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

See all the symptoms in action…