What Are the Symptoms of PTSD?
PTSD symptoms are divided into three categories. People who have been exposed to traumatic experiences may notice any number of symptoms in almost any combination. However, the diagnosis of PTSD means that someone has met very specific criteria. The symptoms for PTSD are listed below.
- Intrusive Re-experiencing
People with PTSD frequently feel as if the trauma is happening again. This is sometimes called a flashback, reliving experience, or abreaction. The person may have intrusive pictures in his/her head about the trauma, have recurrent nightmares, or may even experience hallucinations about the trauma. Intrusive symptoms sometimes cause people to lose touch with the “here and now” and react in ways that they did when the trauma originally occurred. For example, many years later a victim of child abuse may hide trembling in a closet when feeling threatened, even if the perceived threat is not abuse-related.
People with PTSD work hard to avoid anything that might remind them of the traumatic experience. They may try to avoid people, places, or things that are reminders, as well as numbing out emotions to avoid painful, overwhelming feelings. Numbing of thoughts and feelings in response to trauma is known as “dissociation” and is a hallmark of PTSD. Frequently, people with PTSD use drugs or alcohol to avoid trauma-related feelings and memories.
Symptoms of psychological and physiological arousal are very distinctive in people with PTSD. They may be very jumpy, easily startled, irritable, and may have sleep disturbances like insomnia or nightmares. They may seem constantly on guard and may find it difficult to concentrate. Sometimes persons with PTSD will have panic attacks accompanied by shortness of breath and chest pain.