The 17 Symptoms of PTSD
Updated: Sep 22
An estimated 12 million adults in the United States experience post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) each year. Many millions more experience traumatic events who are not diagnosed with this mental health condition.
Many of those millions recover on their own in time, but some don’t. How do you know if what you’re experiencing is normal or if it could be PTSD?
Here are the 17 symptoms of PTSD that you should look out for.
Intrusive thoughts: These are thoughts that pop up unexpectedly, are unwanted, and cause distress.
Nightmares: Dreams are vivid and disturbing, causing distress upon waking.
Avoiding reminders of the event: You may avoid talking about the event, but this symptom can also include extreme avoidance behaviors that can drastically alter your life.
Memory loss: As the brain attempts to cope with the event, memories can be lost. They may resurface randomly at another time, which can cause distress.
Negative thoughts about yourself and the world: Many survivors don't feel worthy of success or healing, and they live with feelings of hopelessness.
Self-isolation and feeling distant: Many survivors don't feel like others understand, so they avoid connecting with others. Avoiding loved ones is also a strategy for avoiding potential triggers.
Anger and irritability: Those with PTSD live in a state of hyperarousal which frequently triggers strong emotions, like anger and irritability.
Reduced interest in pleasurable activities: It is difficult for survivors to find pleasure in activities they used to enjoy due to mood changes, sleeplessness, and avoidance tactics.
Hypervigilance: In a state of hypervigilance, PTSD sufferers are always prepared for a threat, even if there isn't one. This often leads to exhaustion and frustration.
Difficulty concentrating: Those who are hyper aroused and hypervigilant often find it hard to concentrate, which makes work, school, and home life extremely difficult.
Insomnia: It may be difficult to fall asleep due to hypervigilance and hyperarousal, but you may also avoid sleeping in order to prevent nightmares.
Vivid flashbacks: It feels as if you are reliving the traumatic event all over again, which makes vivid flashbacks more intense than intrusive thoughts.
Avoiding people, places, and things that are related to the event: Many sufferers of PTSD avoid anything that might remind them of the event as a way to not think about it, which can worsen symptoms over time.
Casting blame: It's common for those suffering from PTSD to blame themselves for what happened, in addition to blaming others who were involved.
Difficulty feeling positive emotions: It is difficult to accept positive emotions, even if you find yourself in a good mood.
Exaggerated startle response: Even the smallest and most harmless of noises can cause a victim of trauma to jump out of their seat.
Engaging in risky behaviors: Substance abuse is common among trauma survivors, as is engaging in activities like unsafe sex, gambling, and high-adrenaline activities.
You should reach out to a licensed health professional if you recognize any of these symptoms. The process of diagnosing PTSD is complex and includes meeting multiple conditions. The sooner you find out if you meet these qualifications, the sooner you can get help.
Initiating a telehealth visit is the quickest and easiest way to get help exactly when you need it. You may be able to get a diagnosis, receive a prescription, and schedule future therapy sessions, all from the comfort of your own home.