by Scholten A

Symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

For most people, PTSD starts within about 3 months of the traumatic event. For some people, signs of PTSD don't show up until years later. PTSD can happen to anyone at any age. Even children can have it. Some people get better within 6 months, while others may have the disorder for much longer. Symptoms of PTSD may vary in frequency and intensity over time, and may fall into 3 categories:
  • Re-experiencing the event:
    • Dreams or nightmares
    • Intrusive memories
    • Flashbacks
    • Anxious reactions to reminders of the event
  • Avoidance:
    • Avoidance of external reminders of the event, such as places, situations, or people that can trigger memories
    • Efforts to avoid feelings, thoughts, memories related to the event
  • Negative changes in mood and cognition related to trauma including detachment, numbness, , difficulties remembering relevant details of the trauma
  • Arousal:
    • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
    • Anger and irritability
    • Difficulty concentrating or maintaining attention
    • Being easily startled
    • Hypervigilance
Physical symptoms may also occur such as:
  • Impaired memory
  • Stomach and digestive problems
  • Rapid breathing or heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Immune system problems
People with PTSD may also abuse alcohol or drugs.


Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). American Psychiatric Association; 2013.
PTSD basics. National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder website. Available at: Accessed December 20, 2014.
Post-traumatic stress disorder. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: Updated May 2010. Accessed December 20, 2014.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated August 25, 2014. Accessed December 20, 2014.

Revision Information

Health Library Search

Only show results from the selected categories.

Adjustment disorder is an excessive, lengthy reaction to a stressful event or situation. It could be 1 stressor or a combination of stressors affecting 1 person or a grou...

Women who have served in the military are at particularly high risk for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Until now, no studies have evaluated treatment for PT...

Can EMDR help people recover from mental and emotional trauma? Find out how this therapy was developed and what to expect if you decide to try it....

16 Beating the Homesick Blues lifestyle - kids' & teens' health

Should you pick up your child from camp if he or she is homesick? Here are some tricks to help your children overcome homesickness...

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a trauma and stressor-related disorder anxiety disorder that develops after a traumatic event. PTSD has also been called "shell s...