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What are the symptoms of PTSD?

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PTSD can cause many types of symptoms.


PTSD can cause many types of symptoms. The symptoms can be generally grouped into three categories:

Re-experiencing symptoms:

Flashbacks—the trauma is relived over and over and includes physical symptoms such as elevated heart rate and perspiration


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 or from outside words, objects or situations that trigger re-experiencing.

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.

Hyper-arousal symptoms:

Being easily startled

Feeling tense or “on edge"

Having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts

Hyper-arousal symptoms are usually constant, instead of being triggered by things that remind one of the traumatic event(s). They can make the person feel continually stressed and angry, making it difficult 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, it might be PTSD. Some people with PTSD don’t show any symptoms for weeks or months.


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