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Symptoms of PTSD

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What Are the Symptoms of PTSD?

Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night covered in sweat and breathing heavily after nightmares?

Do you ever zone out and become overwhelmed with the thought of something from your past that haunts you to this day?

Does a random sound, sight, or smell send you into full-scale flashbacks?

If so, you may be one of the millions of Americans living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It can be something as simple as the sight of a person in a mask that terrorizes you. The sound of glass shattering could do it as well. Maybe even the smell of smoke.

Millions of Americans experience traumatic events from the past that can completely derail the future. Whenever the smallest detail from the event creeps in, you can enter either shutdown mode or panic mode. For every person, the responses can be different, but the end result is always unhappiness and discomfort.

For the 25-year-old that survived a school shooting when they were 14, the sound of glass shattering can take them right back to being that 14-year-old huddling down on the ground with their friends in the classroom.

For the 60-year-old widow that lost her husband in a car crash more than 20 years ago, the fear of cars can linger and completely derail her life.

For the veteran of the Gulf War, the sound of fireworks may be enough to bring terrorizing flashbacks of things no person is prepared to see on the battlefield.

In Kentucky, where more than 300,000 veterans of war live and where more than 23% of children experience trauma, something we will get into more later, the need for knowledge on PTSD is dire.

Post-traumatic stress disorder has a different story for each individual, but there is hope in overcoming the crushing memories and living out a happier life.

What Is PTSD?

PTSD is the acronym for post-traumatic stress disorder. It is, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), “a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, or rape, or who have been threatened with death, sexual violence, or serious injury.”

While PTSD has become common enough throughout the United States and the world as a whole, it still may be lost on some. If you have ever heard of the term “shell shock” when hearing about veterans that have experienced combat and returned home from war, you have heard of PTSD.

Trauma is not a rare occurrence in the world today. In the United States, 60% of men and 50% of women experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. The startling numbers are the result of trauma from different sources, according to the research conducted.

In women, trauma is more likely to come from sexual assault as either a child or an adult. For men, trauma is more likely to be experienced through accidents, combat, disasters, or witnessing death/injury.

While the above statistics signify that over half of all Americans have experienced trauma, numbers show that only 10-15 million Americans have PTSD in a given year. These numbers are due to a lack of understanding by the general population that their experiences are indeed PTSD and the lack of understanding that therapy is needed.

An estimated 1 in 11 Americans is diagnosed with PTSD at some point in their life.

While the number of men with traumatic events occurring in their life is higher than that for women, the opposite is true for the number of each gender that experiences and is diagnosed with PTSD in a given year. The National Institute of Mental Health finds that 1 in 20 women show symptoms of PTSD in a given year. This is much higher than the 1 in 55 men that show symptoms of PTSD in therapy.

The important thing to remember is PTSD can happen to anyone, and it is not a sign of weakness.

Potential Signs in Diagnosing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder is not simple to uncover in therapy. While the desire to overcome is there, one must dive into the traumatic event to eventually overcome it. This requires a lot of trust in the therapist or psychiatrist you work with and determination to reach the other side.

If you are having any mentally unhealthy actions or thoughts in your life, it is important that you speak with a medical professional as soon as possible. Too often we neglect our mental health because of our busy lifestyles, but it is important to give our mental health as much attention as our physical health.

Because we overlook our mental health in many instances, it can be missed that we are experiencing things like PTSD. While we may have moments that are completely miserable, we can easily convince ourselves that everything is fine. This is a dangerous path to take.

Having any knowledge of mental health disorders can quickly come in handy in dire times. The following are signs that you or your loved one may be experiencing PTSD and need to seek out further help from a therapist.

  1. There was a traumatic event, often life-threatening, that took place
    • Without a traumatic event, the feelings you are having may be something more in line with anxiety disorder.
  2. There are internal reminders of the event
    • These are typically experienced in flashbacks and/or nightmares. They are not simply memories or recollections but intrusive thoughts that are unwanted and leave you feeling like you are back in the traumatic situation again.
  3. You find yourself avoiding external reminders
    • Those with PTSD, whether they know it or not, will do what they can to avoid situations that may trigger a flashback or nightmare. For example, someone that was once in a bad car accident may avoid driving again because of the potential for a flashback.
  4. You have an altered anxious state
    • PTSD leaves a person feeling on edge (hypervigilance). You are easily startled and always worried about the traumatic event recurring. For example, a woman that experienced sexual assault may find themself more cautious and looking over their shoulder more often when doing things like walking down the street.
  5. Inability to control your mood or thoughts
    • PTSD can make a person see the world differently entirely. Often PTSD makes the world seem like a darker and more evil place where you must focus on protecting yourself from it and the people in it. Often it is friends and family that will see this sign and make you aware of it.

Overarching Symptoms of PTSD

The “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition” (DSM-5) is a manual for therapists and other mental health workers to reference in their work with patients. It provides information that may be useful in diagnosing someone with a disorder or helping them to treat the disorder.

In the most recent edition, the fifth, the DSM explains that symptoms for PTSD fall under four main categories. Specific symptoms can vary in severity.


Intrusion, or intrusive thoughts, are unwanted and unwarranted thoughts that can pop into a person’s head at any time. Often these thoughts are repetitive. For someone with PTSD, the repetitive thought often puts the person back into the traumatic situation.

As part of the symptoms of intrusion, a person may experience the following:

  • Distressing dreams (nightmares)
  • Involuntary memories
  • Flashbacks


For a person with PTSD, avoidance is avoiding reminders of the traumatic event(s) that is at the root of their disorder. This may include avoiding people, places, activities, objects, or situations similar to the traumatic event.

As part of avoidance, symptoms may include:

  • Isolation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Decline in personal and romantic relationships
  • Fear
  • Low self-esteem

Alterations in Cognition and Mood

A person facing PTSD will show changes in memory, cognition (understanding), and mood. This symptom may cause a person to have distorted feelings about themself and situations they are in. A common example of this is incorrect blame put on oneself in a situation.

Further symptoms coming from alterations in cognition and mood include:

  • Anger
  • Shame
  • Guilt
  • Void of happiness

Alterations in Reactions

Alterations in arousal and reactions may occur in someone with PTSD. It may be harder for someone to feel joy or sadness. Because of this, a person may turn to doing reckless and self-destructive activities that cause reactions.

This is an unhealthy way of coping, though, and may lead to further issues such as:

  • Substance use
  • Insomnia (sleeplessness)
  • Mood swings
  • Increased chance of death or injury due to accident
  • Lack of concentration

PTSD Symptoms in Children

More than 23% of Kentucky children have experienced trauma. Traumatic events for children may include:

  • Bullying
  • Violence
  • Disasters
  • Witnessing domestic abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Medical trauma
  • Refugee trauma
  • Sexual abuse
  • Sex trafficking
  • Terrorism
  • Grief
  • Death
  • Kidnapping
  • Car crashes
  • Neglect
  • Fires

For children, PTSD may occur many years after the traumatic event took place. Leaving trauma unresolved can cause further mental health issues later in life and further trauma to occur in adulthood.

If your child has experienced any of the above events listed or anything else that may cause trauma, it is best they speak with mental health professionals sooner rather than later.

PTSD in Veterans

While it can affect anyone, PTSD among veterans of war is especially common. According to findings from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), PTSD is one of the most common issues facing American veterans today.

More than 300,000 veterans reside in Kentucky. Providing our nation’s heroes with comfort, compassion, and a helping hand is the least we can do in gratitude for their sacrifice.

According to the VA:

  • 11-20 out of every 100 veterans of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have PTSD
  • 12 out of every 100 veterans of the Gulf War have PTSD
  • 15 out of every 100 veterans of the Vietnam War have PTSD currently, and as many as 30 out of every 100 veterans of the Vietnam War had PTSD in the 1980s

Connect With a Mental Health Professional Who Cares

At SUN Behavioral Kentucky, our staff works daily to help people facing mental health disorders like PTSD. With outpatient, inpatient, and telehealth programs, our medical professionals use evidence-based therapies to treat people from all backgrounds mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Our PTSD treatment is designed to help people from all backgrounds.

Regardless of your background, our master’s level clinicians are equipped with the skills necessary to help you. There is daily pain associated with PTSD that we can break down to help you live a happier and healthier future.

If you are struggling with past events and unable to get through a day or week without feeling the repercussions of what happened, give us a call at 859-429-5188.



What are the five signs of PTSD?

The first is the existence of a life-threatening event. The second is the existence of internal reminders of the event for the person experiencing PTSD. The third is the person avoiding possible reminders that are external. The fourth sign of PTSD is an altered state of anxiety. The fifth and final sign of PTSD is changes in mood or thinking.

What are three possible symptoms of PTSD?

There are three main types of symptoms of PTSD. These include:

  • Re-experiencing trauma through intrusive flashbacks and nightmares
  • Numbness and avoidance of reminders of traumatic events
  • Difficulty sleeping, concentrating, and general anxiety

What are the 17 symptoms of complex PTSD?

The 17 most common symptoms of PTSD are intrusive thoughts, nightmares, memory loss, avoiding outside triggers, self-isolation, general negative thoughts, hyper-anxiety, anger, lack of interest in things once seen as pleasurable, insomnia (sleeplessness), casting blame on others, vivid flashbacks, difficulty concentrating, risky behaviors, avoidance of friends and family, lack of joy, and being easily startled.

How does a person with PTSD act?

A person with post-traumatic stress disorder may act detached, jumpy, generally depressed, anxious, and angry.

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