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What Are the Symptoms of PTSD?

What are some of the common PTSD symptoms and how can the condition be treated? Read on to learn more.

What Is PTSD?

PTSD, which stands for post-traumatic stress disorder, is a condition in which a person has difficulty recovering from a traumatic experience. In the past, the condition was called “shell shock” or “combat fatigue” due to the many veterans who experienced the condition in World War II and beyond. However, we now know that there are many causes of PTSD, and the condition can affect anyone who has experienced or witnessed trauma, regardless of whether you’re a veteran or not.1

People with PTSD often deal with difficult PTSD symptoms like anxiety, sleep problems, and disturbing thoughts or flashbacks to the traumatic event. People with another form of PTSD called complex PTSD have PTSD symptoms that may be more intense due to repeated traumatic experiences. The symptoms of complex PTSD are like those of typical PTSD but can also include feelings of negative self-worth, relationship issues, trouble regulating emotions, and detachment from trauma.2

doctor treating ptsd

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PTSD Causes and Risk Factors

Research shows that about 6% of people in the United States will have PTSD at some point in life. Some events that can lead to signs of PTSD include witnessing or experiencing violence, natural disasters, car accidents, and losing a loved one.3

Risk Factors

While most people will go through a traumatic experience at some point, not everyone develops PTSD or PTSD signs and symptoms. However, some risk factors make your chances of developing PTSD higher, including:

  • Gender (women are twice as likely to develop PTSD)
  • Genetics
  • Lack of social support
  • Pre-existing mental conditions

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms

Not everyone with PTSD will experience every one of the common PTSD symptoms. However, if you’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, you’ll likely experience one or more of the following:

  • Intrusive thoughts or memories
  • Avoiding certain situations that may trigger unpleasant memories
  • Isolating yourself, even from friends and family
  • Sleep problems and nightmares
  • Negative thoughts and feelings of guilt, apathy, and detachment
  • Feelings of anxiety, irritation, and constantly being on edge

PTSD Symptoms

People with PTSD will sometimes also experience physical PTSD symptoms, including:4

  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Muscle tension and joint pain
  • Back pain
  • Headaches

Impact of PTSD

The combination of mental, physical, and emotional PTSD signs and symptoms can affect an individual and cause several behavioral changes. You may feel a lack of enjoyment in things you once enjoyed, a lack of interest in life, and difficulty feeling positive emotions. You might find yourself easily startled or easily angered. You may also struggle to maintain a job and complete daily activities. While these symptoms can be difficult and troubling, it’s important to acknowledge that they aren’t personal failings but symptoms of PTSD.

The good news is that PTSD is treatable, and there are several PTSD treatments available for those living with the condition.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Diagnosis

If you suspect you may have PTSD, a doctor with experience working with mental health, like a psychologist or psychiatrist, can evaluate you and potentially diagnose you. PTSD diagnosis typically involves a physical exam to rule out any physical explanations for your symptoms; a psychological exam, where you discuss your symptoms; and an evaluation of your symptoms using the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). 

PTSD Diagnosis Criteria

To be diagnosed with the condition, you must experience all of the following PTSD criteria for at least one month, according to the DSM-5:5

  • One or more re-experiencing symptoms (flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, nightmares)
  • One or more avoidance symptoms (avoiding certain places or thoughts to try to avoid PTSD triggers)
  • Two or more arousal and reactivity symptoms (being on edge, being easily startled, having angry outbursts)
  • Two or more cognition and mood symptoms (negative thoughts, memory issues, loss of interest in enjoyable activities, feelings of guilt or blame)

PTSD Complications and Early Prevention

The pervasive nature of PTSD can cause complications in your relationships and work life and affect your health. PTSD may also increase the risk for mental health issues such as:

He lpful Factors in Preventing or Mitigating PTSD

Because of this, it’s important to focus on preventing the condition whenever possible. Preventing the condition can be done by early intervention following trauma, and other factors can help, including:

  • Getting support from friends and family following the traumatic experience
  • Turning to your faith or community
  • Seeking PTSD therapy or counseling

Importance of Support

If someone you know has PTSD, be sure to let them know that you’re there for them. You don’t want to force them to open up to you but checking in regularly and letting them know you are available to talk can go a long way. You may also want to familiarize yourself with the condition and your loved one’s PTSD triggers and symptoms to offer helpful support. 

Additionally, if you see consistent signs and symptoms of PTSD and they seem to be worsening, don’t hesitate to seek medical help for your loved one. 

man in therapy for ptsd

PTSD Symptoms

Treatment for PTSD and Other Mental Disorders

PTSD recovery is very possible. Several methods can help lessen symptoms and even allow people to recover completely from the condition. PTSD treatments include:


PTSD therapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy, can be helpful methods of treating PTSD symptoms. CBT allows you to talk about your traumatic experience and the thoughts and situations that trigger PTSD symptoms. From there, your therapist can help you recognize which thinking patterns keep you stuck, and you can work together to change and improve these negative thinking patterns. 


Several medications can be used to improve post-traumatic stress disorder. Antidepressants can improve symptoms of depression and anxiety and can also improve sleep issues. Anti-anxiety medications are sometimes prescribed to treat short-term anxiety issues associated with PTSD. Lastly, prazosin is a medication used to suppress nightmares in people with PTSD.

Support Groups

Your therapist or counselor may be able to recommend PTSD support groups for you to attend. In these groups, you can find solace and a sense of community with others who have gone through tough things and experienced similar PTSD signs and symptoms as you.

Reach Out to Boardwalk Recovery Center

Coping with PTSD can be challenging but remember that you have many options available to help you heal. To get started on your journey to recovery, consider PTSD treatment centers or reach out to a mental health professional at Boardwalk Recovery Center, where our effective treatment allows you to live the positive and fulfilling life you’re meant to live.
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