- What is post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD?
- Who gets PTSD?
- What are the symptoms of PTSD?
- Do children react differently than adults?
- How is PTSD detected?
- Why do some people get PTSD and other people do not?
- How is PTSD treated?
- Other medications
- Treatment after mass trauma
- What efforts are under way to improve the detection and treatment of PTSD?
- How can I help a friend or relative who has PTSD?
- How can I help myself?
- Where can I go for help?
- What if I or someone I know is in crisis?
- For more information on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
PTSD can cause many symptoms. These symptoms can be grouped into three categories:1. Re-experiencing symptoms:
- Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating
- Bad dreams
- Frightening thoughts.
Re-experiencing symptoms may cause problems in a person’s everyday routine. They can start from the person’s own thoughts and feelings. Words, objects, or situations that are reminders of the event can also trigger re-experiencing.2. Avoidance symptoms:
- Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Feeling strong guilt, depression, or worry
- Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past
- Having trouble remembering the dangerous event.
Things that remind a person of the traumatic event can trigger avoidance symptoms. These symptoms may cause a person to change his or her personal routine. For example, after a bad car accident, a person who usually drives may avoid driving or riding in a car.3. Hyperarousal symptoms:
- Being easily startled
- Feeling tense or “on edge”
- Having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts.
Hyperarousal symptoms are usually constant, instead of being triggered by things that remind one of the traumatic event. They can make the person feel stressed and angry. These symptoms may make it hard to do daily tasks, such as sleeping, eating, or concentrating.
It’s natural to have some of these symptoms after a dangerous event. Sometimes people have very serious symptoms that go away after a few weeks. This is called acute stress disorder, or ASD. When the symptoms last more than a few weeks and become an ongoing problem, they might be PTSD. Some people with PTSD don’t show any symptoms for weeks or months.