What are signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

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PTSD can occur after a traumatic, frightening, or shocking event. Typically people with this condition can be stuck in a “fight-flight-or-freeze” pattern of hyper-vigilance, which can cause both physical and mental health problems. 

Most people will exhibit a traumatic response after a scary event, but PTSD happens when those symptoms persist. Sometimes the symptoms will be noticeable for up to three months after the incident, but they could show up much later. People can become activated (more commonly known as triggered) by anything — objects, people, certain phrases, smells — that can cause them to re-experience their trauma. 

People with PTSD often actively avoid the items or situations that trigger their symptoms. For example, if someone survived a car accident while driving, they may not choose to drive again even if they are physically able to. Read more about the lasting effects of trauma in this article by Houston therapist Lacy Shawn.

PTSD can happen to anyone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the following symptoms must be present for at least one month to diagnose someone with PTSD:

  • At least one way the person re-experiences their trauma 
  • At least one way the person avoids triggers
  • At least two ways the person is aroused and reactive (like in fight-flight-or-freeze)
  • At least two ways the person’s cognition and mood is affected by their trauma

Re-experiencing symptoms:

  • Flashbacks that make the person continually relive the trauma. This includes physical symptoms like sweating or an increased heart rate.
  • Nightmares 
  • Frightening thoughts

Avoidance symptoms:

  • Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the trauma
  • Avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event

Arousal and reactivity symptoms:

  • Being easily startled
  • Feeling tense or “on edge”
  • Having difficulty sleeping
  • Having angry outbursts

Cognition and mood symptoms:

  • Trouble remembering key details of the traumatic event
  • Negative thoughts about oneself or the world
  • Distorted feelings like guilt or blame
  • Loss of interest in enjoyable activities

If these symptoms seem familiar to you, then don’t delay in reaching out for help. Mental Health Match can connect you to a mental health counselor who specializes in PTSD.

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