Symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

After a traumatic experience, it’s normal to feel dread, depression, and a feeling of being disconnected from friends and family. However, if those feelings do not fade, you may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD will likely develop following any event that makes you fear for your safety. Most people associate PTSD with victims of sexual assault or battle-scarred soldiers—and military combat is the most common cause in men. Any event that overwhelms you with feelings of hopelessness and despair, can trigger PTSD—especially if the event feels unpredictable and uncontrollable.

How Common is PTSD?

PTSD can affect any person following a traumatic event. However,  people are at greater risk if the event involved deliberate harm such as physical or sexual assault. Additionally, if the individual had repeated traumatic experiences such as childhood sexual abuse or experiencing constant battle in a warzone.

Beautiful young woman suffering from mood disorder

Statistics show that approximately 6% of Americans will experience PTSD in their lifetime. The most common events leading to the development of PTSD include combat exposure, childhood physical abuse, sexual violence.

Common Symptoms of PTSD

PTSD develops differently. Each and every person in the world is unique and with that in mind, so is their nervous system and how it responds to intense stimuli. For example, it’s common for people to develop PTSD within hours of experiencing the triggering event but for some, it may take weeks, months, or even years before symptoms of PTSD appear. To explain further, our minds may be subconsciously triggered by inconspicuous events such as noises, images, words, or smells.

While everyone experiences PTSD differently, these are the 5 most common symptoms of PTSD:

Intrusive Thoughts

The events following a dreadful situation leave a lasting mark on an individual. A person can feel stuck in the traumatic moment and the memories linger on for years. Suffers of PTSD report frequent reoccurrences of distressing memories.

The memories may even be so vivid that some have reported that the incident is taking place again. These types of occurrences are known as flashbacks. These intense flashbacks lead to deep distress and will often increase heart rate. The increase in heart rate often times triggers a person’s fight or flight response.

Anger and Irritability

PTSD creates a state of hyperarousal. This suggests that the brain is kicked into a state of “fight or flight”. Hyperarousal results in strong emotions like anger, as well as general irritability on a daily basis. Those that have been traumatized may lash out at others, even if they don’t fully understand why.

One theory states that increased anger happens as a consequence of how trauma changes the brain to acknowledge potential threats. In other words, the brain appears to become more likely to misinterpret the actions and intentions of others as hostile and threatening.

Memory Loss

One of the least-talked-about but most often-affected regions of the brain affected by PTSD is your brain’s memory function. One of PTSD’s core symptoms is impaired memory encompassing trauma.

PTSD may also impact your mind’s ability to effectively store, recall, and synthesize memories. Due to this symptom, memories might be hazy, jumbled,  or the memories may be missing altogether.


It is common for people with PTSD to have trouble sleeping. In fact, having trouble falling or staying asleep is a common symptom of PTSD. This symptom is a common complaint among veterans.

Suffers tend to be hypervigilant and at night, creaks and sounds from the outside cause an individual to feel tense and fearful. This contributes to poor quality of sleep or lack of sleep altogether.

Risky Behaviors

A growing body of research shows that individuals with PTSD are at elevated risk for engaging in a number of impulsive and risky behaviors, including substance abuse, risky sexual behavior, non-suicidal self-injury, and eating disorders.

Additionally, gender plays a role in who develops more risky behaviors from PTSD. In a sample of trauma survivors, men showed greater overall risk-taking compared to women.

New Jersey’s Choice for PTSD Psychotherapy

When you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dealing with the past can be hard. Instead of telling others how you feel, you may keep your feelings bottled up. But talking with a therapist can help you get better.

Dr. Tosk is here to provide professional care for you today through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and other beneficial treatment.  Get the valuable tools to discover the source of unhealthy thought patterns, and affect positive changes in your life. Contact Us today for a free 15-minute consultation.