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What are the symptoms of PTSD?

People respond in different ways to extreme trauma. Many people who experience extreme trauma do not develop PTSD. However, for those who do, PTSD symptoms usually appear within several weeks of the trauma, but some people don’t experience symptoms until months or even years later.

Three categories – or "clusters" – of symptoms are associated with PTSD.


Re-living the event through recurring nightmares or other intrusive images that occur at any time. People who suffer from PTSD also have extreme emotional or physical reactions such as chills, heart palpitations or panic when faced with reminders of the event.

Avoiding reminders of the event, including places, people, thoughts or other activities associated with the trauma. PTSD sufferers may feel emotionally detached, withdraw from friends and family, and lose interest in everyday activities.

Being on guard or being hyper-aroused at all times, including feeling irritability or sudden anger, having difficulty sleeping or concentrating, or being overly alert or easily startled.
People with PTSD may have low self-esteem or relationship problems or may seem disconnected from their lives. Other problems that may mask or intensify symptoms include:

Psychiatric problems such as depression, dissociation (losing conscious awareness of the “here and now”) or another anxiety disorder like panic disorder.

Self-destructive behavior including:

- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Suicidal impulses
- High-risk sexual behaviors that may result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases (STD), including HIV
- Other high-risk behavior that may be life-endangering, such as fast or reckless driving

Physical complaints, any or all of which may be accompanied by depression, including:

- Chronic pain with no medical basis (frequently gynecological problems in women)
- Stress-related conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia
- Stomach pain or other digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome or alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation
- Eating disorders
- Breathing problems or asthma
- Headaches
- Muscle cramps or aches such as low back pain
- Cardiovascular problems
- Sleep disorders

Myths about Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD is a complex disorder that often is misunderstood. Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD, but many people do.

MYTH: PTSD only affects war veterans.

FACT: Although PTSD does affect war veterans, PTSD can affect anyone. Almost 70 percent of Americans will be exposed to a traumatic event in their lifetime. Of those people, up to 20 percent will go on to develop PTSD. An estimated one out of 10 women will develop PTSD at sometime in their lives.

Victims of trauma related to physical and sexual assault face the greatest risk of developing PTSD. Women are about twice as likely to develop PTSD as men, perhaps because women are more likely to experience trauma that involves these types of interpersonal violence, including rape and severe beatings. Victims of domestic violence and childhood abuse also are at tremendous risk for PTSD.

MYTH: People should be able to move on with their lives after a traumatic event. Those who can’t cope are weak.

FACT: Many people who experience an extremely traumatic event go through an adjustment period following the experience. Most of these people are able to return to leading a normal life. However, the stress caused by trauma can affect all aspects of a person’s life, including mental, emotional and physical well-being. Research suggests that prolonged trauma may disrupt and alter brain chemistry. For some people, a traumatic event changes their views about themselves and the world around them. This may lead to the development of PTSD.

MYTH: People suffer from PTSD right after they experience a traumatic event.

FACT: PTSD symptoms usually develop within the first three months after trauma but may not appear until months or years have passed. These symptoms may continue for years following the trauma or, in some cases, symptoms may subside and reoccur later in life, which often is the case with victims of childhood abuse.

Some people don't recognize that they have PTSD because they may not associate their current symptoms with past trauma. In domestic violence situations, the victim may not realize that their prolonged, constant exposure to abuse puts them at risk.


2 Posts
Wow I wrote a long reply. (plz exuse smilies...they were fun)
I am amazed this was posted in 2003 and has NO comments!
This is essential info and all people should know at least this much about ptsd.
My life was a nightmare for past 22 years (began having them at age 12) until I figured out what was causing me to have severe panic attacks (not just high anxiety but full-blown, full body adrenaline overload panic reactions.) Obviously this was very debilitating and as time went on they became more frequent and longer and really severe if my bipolar meds off a little. I became afraid to do anything and started getting paranoid about even eating or bathing (thought "toxins" were driving me mad) I was almost housebound by the time my daughter was a few months away from graduating high school. I was taking a lot more meds too (I am bipolar so still need to take some)
It seemed like the panic attacks were out of the blue but when a crazy bully neighbor :eek:gre: created an ongoing abusive scary stressful situation that turned out to be one of those blessings in disguise bc it had a lot of abstract similarities to original "event".
Once ptsd was suggested the flood gates of insight opened and the panic attacks started to make sense. Once I was aware of the connections triggering them it made it possible to begin to work with each one, ask myself what is this reminding me of.
Then I could say to myself "I am SAFE. I am NOT alone. I EAT PANIC ATTACKS FOR LUNCH!!! RRRROOOOAAAAARRRRRR!!!!!" A friend, a quiet demure tiny little wisp of a woman, demonstrated this to me by flexing her biceps and roaring really loud and angrily and it made me laugh so ---- hard that I think that is why it helps and it never becomes old. She was such a vicious sight that it will stick in my brain forever I think. Don't get me wrong, it's not magic, I still get the massive adrenaline spikes when I'm triggered but I can feel it coming on so I slow down my breathing and I sit down and put my head down sort of between my knees and just sort of quietly observe what is going on in my body. I name each symptom and sensation as it flows thru me paying attn to each detail in a scientific way and avoid any thinking of death or memories or suffocation or thoughts about whatever brought it on (that comes later) by focusing really hard on "observing" my symptoms as objectively as possible, NOT subjectively. I keep repeating either out loud or to myself the mantra above picturing my friend to add a little humor. It's no picnic and the panic attacks are still about as enjoyable as a root canal w/out anesthesia BUT I haven't tried to kill myself for 4 years now.
I also can see a predictable pattern in the physical sensations and they don't last quite as long and I usually don't have multiple attacks on the same day anymore.
A quick trick when I'm in a situation where it's possible is for me to jump into a shower with cold water going full blast or a very cold pool. It stops those attacks almost instantly. Don't know why, or care, it just works, fine by me.

Here's where I take an "online" risk...I smoke a little decent pot every night, I know the grower so I'm not contributing to those bastards at the Mexican border, or any other terrorists AND I don't have to deal w/ scumbags, getting mugged or worry about toxins. It took me many years of smoking and quitting , smoking and quitting to realize it WAS helping. I felt so guilty about smoking for so long. I kept trying to quit until one day after 8 months of NOT smoking and the panic attacks being severe, daily and constant and my daughter's graduation was coming up and I knew I wouldn't be able to go bc of my condition.
Also my dr was starting to try to put me in a group home. :run:
There's no way I was giving everything up that made life worth living (my complete freedom, my self esteem, my gardens, my animals) and moving into a ---- group home.
At the time I couldn't drive anymore so my Dad was with me when we drove home from my dr and I said "Dad, you know I will never go into a group home, right? I will kill myself first or AFTER. But I will NEVER live like that, w/out my freedom and in a mental group home." I also wanted to attend my daughter's graduation. That was paramount. So I started bawling and said I gotta try smoking the pot and see if it helps bc it was my last chance. I didn't want to bc I felt like a loser and not in control of my own life/ideals and I was proud of the fact I had POWERED thru 8 long miserable months but it was time to do whatever necessary. My dad said "you need to see if it will help honey." It didn't help overnight but each day was a little better. Within 2 weeks I was able to attend my daughter's graduation (NOT stoned, I usually just smoke before bed) although I was shaky and exhausted after, I WENT!!! When I saw the dr I again I drove myself but my Dad met me there. He was convinced and I was convinced and thankfully my dr. is convinced but keeps that a secret. She said "la-la-la, I can't hear you....but whatever you are doing keep doing it!"
I don't need to smoke during the day, just at night and it's like prophylactic medicine. When I experimented w/ quitting (to make sure it really was the pot helping) w/in a few weeks the panic attacks would be back and getting worse and longer every day. Since I know from experience when I was off it for 8 months, being bull-headed about NOT smoking it, I know that waiting for it to get better prob isn't gonna pan out. Even w/ the pot helping so much I still get them, sometimes even monster ones, but it's a lot less scary and I can wait it out now and bc I'm not as scared and confused about WHY it's happening and/or MENTALLY panicking they go away in about 20 minutes and I can actually look forward to each set of symptoms bc they come in a distinct pattern and it's like watching a clock ticking by so I can tell when the end is around the corner. I used to get them like labor pains. One after the other all day, all night for weeks at a time. Hence the suicide attempts up till 4 years ago. My life is much better now, no longer a hermit, inching my way back into being self-sufficient, and I have friends I go out and do things with. Amazing.
:hammer: If I hadn't had that person bugging the ---- out of me during the neighbor's bullying, "Come on Eileen this HAS to remind you of something bc your reaction is so massive and the situation does not warrant it." over and over the light would have never gone on in my head.
Oh also DO be careful of otc medications (actually ANY meds) and additives and preservatives in food and beauty supplies. Learning about things to avoid has helped me increase my tolerance to triggers. (so did therapy once I finally found someone who knew what the hell they were doing) In my case, if I drink a glass of Hawaiian Punch I'm gonna be awfully unhappy for about 24 hours and God help me if I run into a "trigger"! So that part of it was legit also. Google neurotoxins in food and it will scare the pants off you but just start by paying attn to your body and eliminate one or two things at a time. I suggest artificial sweeteners to be at top of list and then food coloring...2 biggest and most prevalent culprits and much of it banned in all of the other developed nations. The changes don't happen overnight but subtly, over time. One day I thought "When did I become able to do math in my head again?!" Yeah, like that :) Life is bearable now, and sometimes...even GOOD.:icecream:

453 Posts
This has been reported as affecting drone pilots . I know of two vets that when they have colds , the flash backs come back . I feel sorry for the vets from native American reservations .You already got a high number of suicide on the reservation . The love ones feel hopeless in trying to get their son back to some level of normal . This subjects needs to be talk about in light of the sniper vet that was killed trying to help out a fellow vet .

2,984 Posts
PTSD can vary for sure.

For instance after being in several car accidents I was sort of vigilant and had slightly intrusive memories of the moment of impact for around a month after, eventually fading.

My mom was in a huge explosion at Monsanto when she was a girl and she once told me she occasionally had a sort of recollection not a true hard core flashback but sort of what I had of the moment of the explosion and the force of concussion that busted all the windows out in their building.

I'm sort of a medical claims examiner and there are for sure varying degrees and symptoms and not just war related for sure.

Premium Member
1,623 Posts
It was actually posted in 2004
The OP joined in 2003
It was probably posted in the Veterans forum, since this one isn't that old
The original Veteran's forum was moderated by moopups (now deceased), so called because at one stage of his life he raised calves. He was a PTSD sufferer, probably in large part from the incident where he had to defend himself against the Viet Cong terrorist who'd killed his on-watch partner. He was unarmed, other than his teeth, had to hold off the knife of the attacker, and managed to kill the VC, but the incident was certainly traumatic, and he had just cause for PTSD.

Kindred Kanuck helped talk him through his situation, and get himself largely sorted out, although he still suffered from Asperger's syndrome.

His sister is still an active member of HT.
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