PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a potentially disabling condition that many people experience after enduring a traumatic event in which they:

  • are threatened with serious injury or death and
  • feel a sense of intense fear, helplessness, or horror

PTSD includes three types of symptoms:

  1. Intrusive Memories
  2. Physiological Arousal
  3. Avoidance Behaviors and Emotional Numbing

Intrusive Symptoms

Intrusive, repetitive memories can be overwhelming because they stir up the negative feelings experienced during the trauma. They can be manifested as:

  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks (a sense of reliving the trauma)
  • Frequent, distressing memories of the trauma
  • Extreme distress (both psychological and physical) when traumatic memories are triggered

Arousal Symptoms

Physiological arousal symptoms are basically an indication that the person no longer feels safe and is physically "on alert" to deal with danger. These include:

  • Jumpiness or being easily startled
  • Hypervigilance (being "on guard"even in safe situations)
  • Trouble going to sleep or staying asleep
  • Irritability or outbursts of anger
  • Decreased concentration

Avoidance Symptoms

Avoidance and numbing symptoms develop as a way to escape overwhelming traumatic memories and arousal symptoms. These can include:

  • Avoidance of persons, places, or situations that are reminders of the trauma
  • Avoidance of thoughts or feelings associated with the trauma
  • Memory loss for an important aspect of the trauma
  • Feelings of detachment or estrangement (feeling separated) from others
  • Feeling emotionally numb or shutdown
  • Decreased interest in enjoyable activities
  • Feelings of hopelessness about the future

How disruptive are these symptoms?
Even though PTSD symptoms can make a person feel crazy, they are normal, common reactions to an overwhelming traumatic experience. However, they can be very distressing. If they persist for more than three months, PTSD symptoms can become chronic and disrupt normal functioning in daily living.