What Are the Symptoms of PTSD?

National Center for PTSD, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Symptoms of PTSD

It is normal to have stress reactions after a traumatic event. Your emotions and behavior can change in ways that are upsetting to you. Even though most people have stress reactions following a trauma, they get better in time. But, you should seek help if symptoms:

  • Last longer than three months
  • Cause you great distress
  • Disrupt your work or home life

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

Symptoms of PTSD may disrupt your life and make it hard to continue with your daily activities. You may find it hard just to get through the day.

There are four types of PTSD symptoms:

1. Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms)

Memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place. For example:

  • You may have nightmares.
  • You may feel like you are going through the event again. This is called a flashback.
  • You may see, hear, or smell something that causes you to relive the event. This is called a trigger. News reports, seeing an accident, or hearing a car backfire are examples of triggers.

2. Avoiding situations that remind you of the event

You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event. For example:

  • You may avoid crowds, because they feel dangerous.
  • You may avoid driving if you were in a car accident or if your military convoy was bombed.
  • If you were in an earthquake, you may avoid watching movies about earthquakes.
  • You may keep very busy or avoid seeking help because it keeps you from having to think or talk about the event.

3. Negative changes in beliefs and feelings

The way you think about yourself and others changes because of the trauma. This symptom has many aspects, including the following:

  • You may not have positive or loving feelings toward other people and may stay away from relationships.
  • You may forget about parts of the traumatic event or not be able to talk about them.
  • You may think the world is completely dangerous, and no one can be trusted.

4. Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal)

You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. You might suddenly become angry or irritable. This is known as hyperarousal. For example:

  • You may have a hard time sleeping.
  • You may have trouble concentrating.
  • You may be startled by a loud noise or surprise.
  • You might want to have your back to a wall in a restaurant or waiting room.

What should I do if I have symptoms of PTSD?

PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event. But for some people, they may not happen until months or years after the trauma. Symptoms may come and go over many years. So, you should keep track of your symptoms and talk to someone you trust about them.

If you have symptoms that last longer than four weeks, cause you great distress, or disrupt your work or home life, you probably have PTSD. You should seek professional help from a doctor or counselor.

Posted on BrainLine August 13, 2015. Reviewed August 9, 2018.

From the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, US Department of Veterans Affairs. www.ptsd.va.gov.

Comments (14)

Please remember, we are not able to give medical or legal advice. If you have medical concerns, please consult your doctor. All posted comments are the views and opinions of the poster only.

I dont think i belong outside of a hospitalim totally traumatized i cant function i fall apart im not capable of finding a place to live cuz everyones stealing my money im left with nowhare near enough money to survive on everyone used me and there stealing my money from all the horror they used me to make money and the punks are stealing from me and my kids

My husband of 25 years just stopped sharing things with me. I had no idea what was going on. He would call me at work and think I was in the woods or outside of the building. As days went on I felt more and more alone. Our oldest was graduating from college and our son just 20 stayed away. I left and stayed at my parents' house for a month and when we had finally talked and I was heading home that night and showed up hours late and in a rage accusing me of being an escort. And staring in porn online. Now being 41 years old and was a virgin when we met, I had only been with him. So two years later numerous hospital stays due to psychosis and diagnosed with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia we are still struggling. I’ve been woken up out of a sound sleep and accused of sleeping with our Neighbors, his coworkers literally accused of painting sexual images of me with other men in my paintings or just these images being in my photographs. Our daughter at 23 now needs therapy and our son just doesn’t bother. Because of constant accusations and anger, I cut off all friends I have anxiety leaving the house, sleeping (afraid of being awakened by him standing above me accusing me of something else) I can’t go anywhere without his mind going full force and he can’t even go to work anymore because he can’t leave me alone! I feel as if I developed PTSD and a nervous tick. I always had a mild studded but now it’s severe. He only talks in form of questions or in a form of an accusation. I love the man I fell in love with and can not picture life without him. At times I feel like things will never be ok and I just want to end my life. But I will not be selfish and hurt my children more than they have already… I just need help and someone to talk to.. our friends and even family have told me to leave him, but what kind of wife would I be leaving during his worst.

Mental illness does not give someone the right to abuse you. You do not have to live with abuse because you made a vow to love your husband for better or worse. With mental illness or without people do what they are allowed to do. He has been able to control and hurt you without consequences because you are a good person and you and made the choice to stay. He knows right from wrong or he would have other behavior that would land him a hospital for the criminally insane. He can learn with therapy and medication to handle his paranoia ,temper , control issues ect and you could give him a chance to get help and end the abusive behavior and leave if he does not . I would stay with my parents or get my own place until he does though . Mental illness is not a free pass to treat others like crap and your marriage vows do not confine you to a life if abuse . Insist he get help and stop these behaviors and go somewhere safe until he does and leave if he does not . You do not deserve to be abused or to live in fear. Praying for you both

If you can, put him in mental hospital or Cate home for such people... None is allowed judge you of this.. it's about your life.. he will never recover, and would be worse after time.. care first about your self .. you still got children in your life... He will not be awear of been in another place. It's dangerous for you to stay with such ill person without expert's support.. soon you will need support as well because of him. I'm working in care home in UK and see varies scenarioses.. send lot of love to you and your husband

I know it sounds silly and you probably feel like it doesn't apply to you, but please reach out to your local women's shelter. Even if you don't feel like it's a place for you, they will have resources, like access to mental health services that specialize in coping with this kind of trauma, that I think might help you.

I was diagnosed four years ago with PTSD and MDD. The symptoms are real, the fight or flight is real. What isn’t real is feeling that you can’t trust anyone at least that’s what my brain tells me. I ended up in the hospital this year because I felt there was no way out, no way to end the night terrors or the flash backs.

The triggers are real. I was triggered by the smell of burnt cheese as it reminded me of One of the incidents that I was in. Even the motion of turning my head to look behind me can trigger an episode. People with black hoodies. The list goes on…. So I stay away.

Of course, relationships are put thru stress. I felt alone and still do in my relationship. He doesn’t understand and how can I explain it when I don’t get it?

Is it possible to be so hyper-aware that you cannot be startled or frightened easily? My sense of surroundings is so intents that I can almost predict events based in what I can see, hear, and sometimes smell. Able to see all angles and scenarios and be able to find a contingency for each scenario basically at a glance. Its very annoying and I have been this way for more than 10 years.

How do I get past it when the people I was told I could “trust” were the police with incorrect paperwork. Destroyed my home and all my furniture in and murdered my deaf rescue do. Shot her 5 times in the chest with hollow point 44’s. I can’t be around authority AT ALL

Mine seems different .I don't have nightmares or flashbacks .what happened to me was a lot of trauma through out my life.its just everything that can go bad did.i have convulsions mainly my legs.my mouth twitches now all the time..my brain feels like I'm slower then before in my brain.headachsbad ones .my hands are almost always numb(.left side)..I'm literally half the man I was .

i am not a vet and have not experienced combat. But 7 days ago my husband suffered a pulmonary embololism - actually more than 15. I called 91 and he was in ICU for 4 days. The first two nights I thought he may die. He still has the clots but hopefully they will dissolve with treatment. There are many unknowns. I have found that I am very very anxious, wound up, touchy....llike I cant' handle anything. Even being asked to find something or where is something I fall apart. im really not myself at all.

I had ongoing sexual and emotional abuse as a child. I have always been triggered by emotional reminders of the abuse, such have have someone act like the person who caused the abuse. Right now I am going through a marital separation, and am having almost continuous panic attacks. I have a prescription for tranquilizers but am not having much luck. I also have a therapist, but I think what I need are some ideas on how to calm down

can worry or anxiety about being shipped and serving in a combat area cause or lead to PTSD? I'm a Nam era vet, never set foot in Asia, but saw many men sent there who didn't want to go. I have dreams of being powerless and have begun to physically throw myself around, attack my partner while I sleep, or throw myself out of bed.
I've become apt at hiding these feelings because I also am having medical issues.

My situation and yours are pretty much the same. I've never quite understood why I have these feelings and never have set foot in Southeast Asia. I recently began working with the VA for a disability and find anytime I go around anything to do with the military now I can't stop shaking. It's something I don't know not understand at all. But it's good to know I'm not the only one even though I still do not understand why.

I have no recollection of my event but have been having emotional feelings and it is so easy to cry now. When I hear anything bad happening to someone or on the other hand anything happy I tear up. It is quite upsetting to have that happen when in front of others. I also get upset easily. I immediately get mad and respond wrong to small matters. Then later regret that happening. I have always been low key in emotional settings and don't get mad easily. This has me very frustrated and wondering how to change this.