Symptoms and Signs of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Doctor's Notes on Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is mental health disorder that can develop following traumatic events such as violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, such as terrorist attacks, motor vehicle accidents, rape, physical or sexual abuse, severe emotional abuse, or wartime violence, including military combat.

Four main types of symptoms related to PTSD include re-experiencing: intrusive memories, nightmares, or flashbacks of the trauma; avoidance: trying to avoid thoughts, feelings, situations, or people that are reminders of the trauma; negative changes in thinking and mood: inability to remember parts of the traumatic event, negative beliefs and feelings about one's self, inability to enjoy pleasurable activity, or excessive self-blame for the trauma or its consequences, emotional detachment, social isolation, and loneliness; and changes in arousal or reactivity: always being on alert (hypervigilance), trouble sleeping, agitation, irritability, hostility, difficulty concentrating, exaggerated startle response, or heightened reactivity to stimuli, and increased likeliness of engaging in reckless or risky behaviors. Other symptoms often associated with PTSD include panic attacks, physical symptoms (such as chronic pain, headaches, stomach pain, diarrhea, tightness or burning in the chest, muscle cramps, or low back pain), feeling of mistrust, problems in daily living, substance abuse, relationship problems, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.