Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Symptoms

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder are seen in around one third of all people who have experienced a traumatic life event. The symptoms vary from person to person but some known symptoms include:

  • Nightmares - Nightmares are one of the most important symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The nightmares usually involve a replay of the traumatic experience that gave rise to the disorder in the first place.
  • Flashbacks - Flashbacks describe moments when an individual experiences mental images of the event that traumatised them.
  • Isolation - People with post-traumatic stress disorder usually feel isolated and segregated from society, family and friends.
  • Irritability and guilt - Individuals may be in a state of hyper arousal causing increased anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and irritability, especially when faced with memories of the traumatic event.
  • Difficulty concentrating - Insomnia caused by nightmares, flashbacks and anxiety may cause difficulty in concentrating and decision making. Driving and operating heavy machinery when concentration is impaired can be dangerous.
  • Anxiety and distress - Being reminded of the traumatic experience often causes severe anxiety and distress. Symptoms may be physical such as sweating, palpitations, dizziness, headaches, stomach cramps, and intense fear. For example, a person who has developed post-traumatic stress disorder after having being exposed to a fire-related accident may have panic attacks or become anxious at the sight of fires, even ones that are usually harmless such as bonfires.
  • Trigger avoidance - Another common feature of post-traumatic stress disorder is avoidance of any possible trigger that could reignite memories of the traumatic event. So, using the above example again, a person who has survived a fire-related accident may avoid fires or even develop a phobia of them.
  • Depression disorders and mood disorders may be associated with post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Substance abuse - Abuse of substances such as alcohol or drugs is associated with the disorder, as the person turns to these agents to help them cope with fear and anxiety.
  • Apathy - A sufferer may become emotionally numb and indifferent to emotions.

Symptoms may develop within a month after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. However in around 15% cases it may take months or even years before the symptoms begin to appear. Symptoms may also disappear for a while. This period of symptom remission is often followed by an episode of symptoms suddenly flaring up.

Children with post-traumatic stress disorder

Children with the disorder typically develop symptoms such as:

  • Bedwetting
  • Forgetting to or being unable to talk
  • Being clingy with parents or caregivers
  • Separation anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Appetite loss
  • Acting out the event that scared them during role play

Further Reading

Last Updated: Aug 23, 2018

Ananya Mandal

Written by

Ananya Mandal

Ananya is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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