What is actually happening during PTSD?

Unfortunately, I suffer from both childhood abuse related PTSD and service/combat related PTSD (the ringing in the ears comment, that just floored me, I never realized that was part of the symptoms, but yes, when I go into 'panic' mode it's there - along with heightened sensory perception). I've struggled with substance abuse my entire life, I'm very rarely relaxed, almost always on alert (hyper-vigilance). My wife says I have a negative outlook, because I always expect the worst to happen. I keep people at a distance, always, and have only been able to experience a facsimile of love for my own children (I am aware of the risks and go to great lengths to ensure there is no 'cycle of abuse' in my home). People think I'm driven and ambitious. I work in a very challenging field (software development) and have been called genius, because people with hyper-vigilance pay so much attention to details it sometimes seems as though they are prescient. A lot of people know I'm a decorated veteran, and they assume my PTSD stems from that, and I let them, because the truth is beyond horrific. In actuality, my mother suffered from mental illness, she was a paranoid, manic-depressive, dis-associative schizophrenic. Because of her, I was molested and raped multiple times before I was 7 years old, incarcerated with hardened criminals because she accused me of trying to murder my little brother. Her delusion was that he was the second coming of Christ and I was Judas, and of course she talked to God, and he told her to punish me, harshly and often. I spent years as a ward of the state, being shuffled from foster home to group home to foster home. Once a child has been molested, they are marked, and other predators can smell that shit from miles away. I've been molested by the very people (social worker) that the 'authorities' put in charge of helping me. By the time I was old enough and enlisted, I was a borderline psychopath and had severe sociopathic tendencies, which uncle sam proceeded to put to good use. The military taught me how to vent my anger, and so I blew shit up, meaning people, kids, women, innocents, and I will now take that to the grave with me, along with the memory of seeing men shot down like insects, disemboweled and cut literally to pieces. I have shot people, stabbed people, you name it. The only saving grace in this horros story of a life, the only reason I am not in a penitentiary at this very moment, is that I happen to be born intelligent. Intelligence gave me self awareness, and has helped me to learn about myself and thus help myself. The other saving grace has been the small number of people who did not allow me to become just another 'throw away' kid. By having exposure to even the faintest glimmer of what life is supposed to be, I was given a chance to work my way out of the nightmare I lived in perpetually. My hands are getting cold and numb as I type this, and I am taking a huge step here because I am writing this comment in the hopes that maybe, somehow, I can help someone else, even if it's just to convince them to offer their assistance to someone else with PTSD.

/r/askscience Thread