PTSD Symptoms

PTSD stand for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It describes a trauma and stress related disorder following exposure to a traumatic event. Although PTSD is classed as a disorder it is worth remembering that PTSD is a normal response to abnormal events.

When we experience a trauma, we try to adapt and integrate our experience of the trauma. This results in trauma symptoms which usually reduce and disappear over the course of a few weeks. However, sometimes we are sometimes unable to integrate our traumatic experience which can result in experiencing PTSD symptoms or complex PTSD symptoms. Trauma symptoms may become PTSD symptoms after they have been experienced for over four weeks.

Most people have heard of PTSD in relation to the military or service personal involved in combat. PTSD symptoms also occur in civilian life as well as in combat. PTSD is the acronym used today for mid-term or longer lasting trauma symptoms. It used to be referred to as 'shell shock' or 'combat fatigue' in a military context.

Intrusion Symptoms

• Are you experiencing recurrent memories or dreams related to the traumatic incident
• Are you experiencing feelings as if the incident if reoccurring in the present moment?
• Are you dissociating away from the current moment or experiencing flashbacks?
• Are you experiencing psychological distress or physiological reactions when you are reminded of the traumatic event

Persistent Avoidance

• Do you try to avoid thoughts, feelings and physical symptoms which trigger memories of the traumatic event?
• Do you try to avoid external reminders of the traumatic event which can include: people, places and activities?

Negative Alterations in Cognitions and Moods

• Do you have difficulty remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
• Are you blaming yourself or others for causing the traumatic event?
• Do you have persistent and negative beliefs or cognitions about yourself, other people of the world in general?
• Are you experiencing negative emotions of anger, guilt or shame in relation to the trauma?
• Do you feel detached from the world or other people?
• Have you lost interest in activities or interests once enjoyed
• Do you find it difficult to experience positive emotions like love or happiness?

Alterations in arousal and reactivity

• Do you exhibit irritable or aggressive behaviour?
• Are you feeling impulsive or engaging in self-destructive or reckless behaviour?
• Are you startled easily or feel constantly on guard?
• Do you have difficulty concentrating or sleeping?

Duration of symptoms

• Have your symptoms lasted for over one month?

Functional Significance

• Are your symptoms impairing your social function, occupation or everyday living?

Traumatic experience and its meaning are different for different people however there are similarities in relation to traumatic symptoms experienced. Our inability to get better is usually caused by maladaptive coping strategies.

Behaviours to watch out for

• Avoiding feelings and everyday activities which support your values
• Substance misuse
• Self-harm
• Isolation or loss of interest in once enjoyed activities
• Risky behaviour which can lead to more trauma

Do I have PTSD?

If you think you might have PTSD it is best to get professional help. This might include a formal PTSD diagnosis and evidence based PTSD treatment by way of EMDR therapy

The DMSM-5 PTSD diagnosis criteria can be found here.

Questions which might be helpful in helping you make a decision on whether to have treatment might include?

• Have you had direct exposure to a traumatic event?
• Have you witnessed a traumatic event?
• Have you had repeated indirect exposure to a traumatic event?


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