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Symptoms of PTSD

2-minute read

Everyone is affected differently by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Symptoms can range from subtle changes in day-to-day life, withdrawal and numbness, to distressing flashbacks or physical anxiety.

Symptoms of PTSD may be appear in the month after the traumatic event, but sometimes can stay dormant for years.

There isn't just one kind of PTSD because everyone has unique experiences and ways of coping.

Some symptoms of PTSD include:

Re-experiencing the trauma

  • repetitive memories (or flashbacks) that are hard to control and intrude into everyday life
  • nightmares
  • extreme distress caused by reminders of the trauma
  • memories or disturbing thoughts that can be prompted by smells, sounds, words or other triggers

Avoidance

  • staying away from places, people or objects that may trigger memories of the traumatic event
  • changing a normal routine to avoid triggering memories
  • not wanting to talk about or think about the event
  • feeling numb

Negative thoughts and mood

  • feeling a sense of hopelessness about the future
  • negative beliefs about yourself or the world
  • blaming yourself or others unreasonably
  • intense worry, depression, anger or guilt
  • not being able to remember the traumatic event
  • no longer enjoying favourite activities
  • becoming emotionally detached from others
  • not being able to experience positive emotions

Increased arousal

  • constant, excessive alertness
  • scanning the environment for signs of danger
  • being easily startled
  • irritable or aggressive behaviour
  • difficulty sleeping
  • poor concentration

Up to 80% of people with long-standing PTSD develop other anxiety disorders, depression and/or substance abuse. Coping by trying to block out the memories with substance abuse can lead to addictions.

PTSD can prevent you from performing properly at work and make you isolated from relatives and friends. It can put great stress on families. This is why early support and treatment is essential.

Children or teenagers with PTSD may have similar symptoms, but with some differences.

PTSD in children

  • new onset of bedwetting when previously dry at night
  • being unusually clingy with parents or carers
  • acting out the event during play
  • forgetting how to talk
  • distressing dreams
  • being more irritable, angry or aggressive — such as having extreme temper tantrums
  • having problems with concentration
  • not being able to sleep

PTSD in teenagers

A teenager may experience any of the adult symptoms but may be more likely to:

  • have a desire for revenge
  • behave in a destructive, disrespectful or violent way
  • increase risk-taking behaviour

If someone appears to be experiencing these symptoms for longer than 1 month after a traumatic event, it's important to seek medical support or psychological assistance.

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Last reviewed: November 2018


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