Meditation Training

What are the 17 Symptoms of PTSD?

Blog Banners 2024 20

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a complex mental health condition triggered by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. The symptoms are varied and can deeply affect an individual’s daily life. Here’s an in-depth look at the 17 symptoms of PTSD:

17 Common Symptoms of PTSD

1. Intrusive Thoughts

Intrusive thoughts are among the most recognized symptoms of PTSD. These unwanted, distressing memories can appear suddenly, disrupting daily activities. For instance, someone who survived a car accident might feel panicked when in a vehicle, or these thoughts might occur randomly without any apparent trigger.

2. Nightmares

Many trauma survivors experience recurring nightmares. According to research by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 71% of individuals with PTSD report having nightmares, which can be more frequent if they have other mental health issues.

3. Avoiding Reminders of the Event

Avoidance is a major coping mechanism for PTSD. People often steer clear of situations, activities, or places that remind them of the traumatic event. For example, a person who nearly drowned may avoid swimming, baths, or beaches to prevent triggering distressing memories.

4. Insomnia

Sleep disturbances, including insomnia, are common in PTSD. Hypervigilance makes it hard to relax and fall asleep. Additionally, the fear of nightmares can deter individuals from wanting to sleep, sometimes leading to substance use as a coping mechanism.

5. Vivid Flashbacks

Flashbacks are intense and vivid recollections of the traumatic event, making it feel like it’s happening again. Triggers such as specific scents or sounds can provoke these flashbacks, causing panic and aggressive responses. Grounding techniques can help manage these episodes.

6. Avoiding People, Places, and Things Related to the Event

To prevent flashbacks, individuals with PTSD might avoid anything that reminds them of the trauma, which can lead to social withdrawal. While avoidance may seem like a solution, it often exacerbates symptoms over time.

7. Memory Loss

PTSD can affect memory, not necessarily due to a physical brain injury but as a defense mechanism. The hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex play key roles in stress and memory. Traumatic experiences can disrupt these areas, leading to memory loss, which might resurface unexpectedly, causing significant distress.

8. Hypervigilance

After trauma, people may become hypervigilant, staying constantly alert to potential dangers. This heightened state of awareness can be exhausting and distressing, significantly impacting daily life.

9. Negative Thoughts About Self and the World

Trauma alters one’s worldview and self-perception. Individuals with PTSD often feel hopeless and view themselves negatively. They might struggle to envision a future or see themselves achieving life milestones. Therapy can help rebuild self-esteem and foster a positive outlook.

10. Self-Isolation and Feeling Distant

Connecting with others can be challenging for those with PTSD. They may withdraw from social interactions to avoid potential triggers or because they feel disconnected from others who haven’t shared their experiences. Professional therapy can help bridge this gap.

11. Anger and Irritability

Hyperarousal from PTSD often manifests as anger and irritability. The brain remains in a heightened state of “fight or flight,” causing individuals to react aggressively or feel irritable even without clear reasons.

12. Reduced Interest in Favorite Activities

PTSD can drain the joy from activities once enjoyed. Mood changes, insomnia, and avoidance behaviors contribute to a lack of motivation and interest in hobbies and work.

13. Difficulty Concentrating

The anxiety and hyperarousal associated with PTSD can make concentration difficult. Those affected might struggle to focus on tasks at work, school, or home, as their minds frequently wander.

14. Casting Blame

Self-blame is common after trauma. Individuals might blame themselves or others for what happened. For example, someone involved in a boating accident might blame the driver or themselves for not preventing the incident.

15. Difficulty Feeling Positive Emotions

PTSD can dampen the ability to feel positive emotions. Anger, sadness, and guilt are prevalent, but individuals might also find it hard to enjoy good moments or control their responses to positive experiences.

16. Exaggerated Startle Response

A heightened startle response is a hallmark of hypervigilance in PTSD. Trauma survivors may react strongly to unexpected noises or movements, feeling constantly on edge.

17. Risky Behaviors

Engaging in risky behaviors is a common symptom of PTSD. Trauma survivors, including those with a history of adverse childhood experiences or combat veterans, may turn to substance abuse, unsafe sex, or high-adrenaline activities as coping mechanisms. Professional treatment is crucial for those engaging in such behaviors.

Understanding these symptoms is essential for recognizing and addressing PTSD. Professional treatment, including therapy and support groups, can significantly aid in managing and alleviating these symptoms.

Photo of Man Resting his Head on his Hands

What Causes PTSD?

There is no official list of events that can cause PTSD, because it can really be caused by anything that a person deems as traumatic. However, below are a few of the most common types of events that can cause long-term trauma.


Violence is a very broad category that encompasses a wide variety of possible events. Combat exposure, sexual assault, domestic violence, and a terrorist attack are all events that could cause PTSD. Childhood abuse or neglect, whether or not it is physically violent, can also cause long-term trauma.

Serious Accidents or Injuries 

Experiencing serious accidents or injuries can be extremely traumatic. This includes car accidents, major surgeries, or life-threatening illnesses such as cancer. The sudden and often violent nature of these incidents can leave lasting psychological scars. Survivors may struggle with flashbacks, anxiety, and a pervasive sense of vulnerability long after the physical wounds have healed. It is possible to recover compensation for your PTSD treatment through a personal injury claim.

Natural Disasters

Natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes can cause significant trauma. These events often involve sudden and overwhelming destruction, loss of property, and, in many cases, loss of life. The chaos and fear experienced during such disasters can lead to long-term emotional distress and PTSD.

Losing a Loved One

Losing a loved one, especially suddenly, can be a profound and devastating experience. The shock and grief associated with unexpected deaths can be overwhelming, leading to PTSD. This type of loss can shatter one’s sense of normalcy and security, causing persistent emotional pain and difficulty coping with everyday life.

Understanding these common causes and symptoms of PTSD is essential for recognizing the diverse and personal nature of traumatic experiences. Each individual’s response to trauma is unique, and what might be traumatic for one person may not affect another in the same way. Recognizing and validating these experiences is a crucial step in providing the necessary support and treatment for those suffering from PTSD.

What are the 17 Symptoms of PTSD?
Scroll to top