What are the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can fall into three types: intrusive memories, avoidance and numbing, and increased anxiety and emotional arousal.

Intrusive memories can include flashbacks, which are vivid memories that cause the person to feel like they are living through the event again, and nightmares.

Avoidance and numbing includes being emotionally numb and not engaging in activities you enjoy. This type of PTSD can include feelings of hopelessness, memory problems, difficulty concentrating, and not talking about the event.

Increased anxiety and emotional arousal leads to feelings of guilt, shame, trouble sleeping, hallucinations, and unreasonable anger.

The typical symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are flashbacks, avoidance, and hyperarousal. 
Flashbacks are the intrusion of vivid memories of a traumatic event that can be so strong and sudden that they make you feel like you are re-living the event. Flashbacks can be triggered by a sound or a sight that reminds you of the event. They can happen in the form of nightmares when you are asleep.
Those with clinical post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) typically:
  • have experienced an immediate response to a traumatic event
  • reacted with extreme fear, horror and/or helplessness to the event
  • continually re-live the event ("flashbacks) through dreams, hallucinations and images
  • try to escape anything that would remind him or her of the event
  • demonstrate some apparent memory loss about the event
  • experience increased irritability, anger, difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • sense heightened awareness, over-react when startled, feel overwhelmed by impending doom or danger
  • struggle at work and in relationships for one month or longer
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may happen to someone who has experienced or witnessed a trauma such as war, rape, abuse, a violent crime, a serious accident, a natural disaster, or the sudden death of a loved one.

People with PTSD have persistent frightening thoughts and memories of their earlier ordeals. They may be depressed. They may feel emotionally numb, especially toward people they were once close to. They may feel irritable and be more aggressive than they used to be. In severe cases, people with PTSD may have trouble working or socializing.
Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) include:
  • Recurring flashbacks, nightmares, or intrusive thoughts about a traumatic event
  • Withdrawal from family and close friends
  • Avoidance of reminders of the event
  • Numbing of emotions
  • Survivor guilt
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Being easily startled
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is directly connected to a stressful life event, like being on a battleground or experiencing a natural disaster. The diagnosis criteria for PTSD is very specific, and includes:
  • Recurrent thoughts or intrusive distressing recollections of the traumatic events (this may manifest in dreams, everyday experiences, or in the form of hallucinations or flashbacks)
  • Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the traumatic event
  • Amnesia or inability to recall important aspects of the traumatic event
  • Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
  • Restricted range of affect or inability to have loving feelings or other emotions
  • A general sense of a foreshortened future (not expecting to have a normal lifespan, marriage, or career)
PTSD is concerning because it can lead to other psychiatric problems like panic disorder, major depression, or alcohol abuse. If you are concerned that your worries and anxiety may be reaching this dangerous level, don’t hesitate to contact your primary care provider or a local psychiatrist to discuss possible therapies.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.