Symptoms and Diagnosis of PTSD

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The symptoms of PTSD can be broken down into 4 main categories – Specific symptoms can vary in severity.

Intrusive thoughts

This includes repeated or unwanted memories, distressing dreams or flashbacks of the traumatic events. Flashbacks may be so vivid that patients feel like they are re-living those events. .

Avoiding reminders

Avoiding reminders of traumatic events may include avoiding people, places, activities and situations that bring on distressing memories. Patients may avoid thinking or remembering the traumatic event, as well as talking about what happened or how they feel about it. .

Negative thoughts and feelings

These may include distorted beliefs about oneself or others. Patients also show less interest in activities they previously enjoyed or feeling detached or estranged from others.

Changes in physical and emotional reactions

Symptoms of changes in physical and emotional reactions (also called arousal symptoms) may include:

  • Being easily startled or frightened
  • Always being on guard for danger
  • Self-destructive behaviour, such as drinking too much or driving too fast
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behaviour
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame

Many people experience these symptoms described above, after being exposed to traumatic events. People are diagnosed if the symptoms last more than a couple of months or even years. Many of these symptoms occur after three months of the trauma, but other symptoms may appear later. For patients dealing with PTSD, the symptoms cause significant distress or cause functioning problems. PTSD often occurs with other related conditions, such as depression, substance use, memory problems and other physical and mental health problems.