Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms

It is readily apparent that every person responds to stress and trauma differently.

Some people seem to “shrug it off” and go about their daily lives with little emotional impact. Others struggle after a traumatic event, but then recover their former joy and optimism. But others go on to acquire PTSD symptoms perhaps even months or years later.  It is important to recognize these common PTSD symptoms.

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PTSD Symptoms

Symptoms generally occur in three categories that are often clustered together in individuals with PTSD. These symptom custers are:

  • Recreating the traumatic event over and over. These flashbacks can happen through nightmares or mental images that pop into the mind during the day. (Note: When a child is suffering from PTSD, these flashbacks often come out in their play.)
  • Avoidance of people, places, or activities that trigger memories of the traumatic event. (For example, if the trauma was a deadly car accident, it may be difficult for someone to drive or ride in a car after the incident. Or fireworks may upset a veteran with PTSD.)
  • Vigilance and attentiveness all the time for danger. This can cause a PTSD sufferer to be irritable, angry, and easily startled.

These cluster PTSD symptoms lead to a host of emotional, relational, and physical issues that are also symptomatic of PTSD.


Emotional PTSD Symptoms

  • Lower than normal sense of self-worth
  • Depression or misplaced guilt
  • Inability to specifically remember or talk about the trauma
  • Feeling numb emotionally
  • Dissociation (not aware of the present moment)
  • A feeling of disconnection from their everyday lives
  • Feeling hyper-aroused and vigilant for danger all the time
  • Lashing out in irritability or unexplained anger
  • Feeling jittery, or unable to concentrate on tasks at hand
  • Other anxiety disorders, such as panic or intense distress

Relational PTSD Symptoms

  • Loss of interest in activities they used to find enjoyable (known as anhedonia)
  • Feeling like they are emotionally detached from friends and family
  • Life-threatening actions such as reckless driving
  • Lack of a sex drive
  • Higher than normal rates of divorce or separation, unemployment, or domestic abuse
  • Self-destructive actions such as: drug or alcohol abuse, suicide, or risky sexual actions

Physical PTSD Symptoms

  • Chronic pain that has no medical explanation
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Heart problems
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Severe headaches
  • Eating disorders
  • Sleep issues such as insomnia or sleep apnea
  • Asthma or other breathing issues
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Poor or painful digestion
  • Racing heart, panic, or chills when reminded of the traumatic event