PTSD Signs, Symptoms and Effects


Understanding the signs, symptoms, and effects of posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is an important step toward getting help for yourself or your loved one. Haverhill Pavilion Behavioral Health Hospital in Haverhill, Massachusetts, is a source of accurate information, reliable guidance, and comprehensive solutions for adults and older adults who have been struggling with PTSD.

Understanding PTSD

Learn about posttraumatic stress disorder

As its name suggests, posttraumatic stress disorder is a condition that develops in the aftermath of one or more traumatic experiences.

Commonly referred to as PTSD, posttraumatic stress disorder can be a source of considerable emotional pain and may lead to a variety of negative outcomes. In addition to distressing emotions and intrusive unpleasant memories, PTSD is also characterized by altered thought processes and changed behavior patterns.

A person may develop the signs and symptoms of PTSD after directly experiencing a traumatic event, witnessing such an event, or learning about the details of a traumatic occurrence involving a friend or family member. Examples of events that can lead to PTSD include physical attacks, sexual assault, military combat, automobile accidents, acts of terrorism, verbal harassment, and natural disasters.

If you endure, witness, or learn about a traumatic event, it is common and even healthy to react with sadness, fear, or similar emotions. But these feelings should be temporary. If they persist or become so severe that your ability to function is compromised, you may be dealing with the signs and symptoms of PTSD.

If you or someone you care about has been struggling with PTSD, please know that help is available. With proper professional care, you can learn to manage the symptoms of PTSD and regain control of your thoughts and actions.

Signs & Symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of PTSD

The signs and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder can vary from person to person depending upon a host of individual factors. In general, though, the following are among the more common signs and symptoms of PTSD:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Changing behaviors to avoid reminders of the traumatic event
  • Being easily frightened or startled
  • Engaging in reckless, aggressive, or otherwise dangerous behaviors
  • Pulling away from family and friends
  • Reducing or ending participation in significant activities
  • Abusing alcohol or other drugs

Physical symptoms:

  • Low energy and persistent fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches and stomachaches
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Hyperarousal

Mental symptoms:

  • Mood swings
  • Impaired ability to focus or concentrate
  • Unwanted unpleasant memories of the traumatic event
  • Nightmares
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Recurring feelings of danger or dread
  • Derealization (the sensation that the world around you is not real)
  • Depersonalization (the sensation that you have become detached from your body)

Short-Term Effects

Possible short-term effects of PTSD

When you need, but fail to receive, proper care for PTSD, you put yourself at risk for a variety of short- and long-term effects. The short-term effects of PTSD that are listed in this section include outcomes that most commonly occur earlier in a person’s experience with this disorder. The short-term effects of PTSD can cause considerable distress and should prompt you to seek effective care immediately.

The following are among the more common short-term effects of PTSD:

  • Strained relationships with family members, friends, and colleagues
  • Poor performance in school or at work
  • Physical harm due to recklessness or insufficient self-care
  • Arrest and other legal problems due to reckless, dangerous, or violent behaviors
  • Abuse of alcohol or other drugs
  • Onset of symptoms of other disorders
  • Diminished self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Social withdrawal
  • Suicidal thoughts

Please understand that describing these effects as short-term is not meant to imply that they are temporary or superficial. Anyone who experiences any short-term effects of PTSD needs professional help. With proper care, you can heal from the short-term effects of PTSD while limiting your risk for long-term harm.

Also, please note that the signs, symptoms, and effects of PTSD can vary considerably from person to person. The onset of short- or long-term effects does not follow a standard pattern in terms of occurrence, duration, or intensity. All short-term effects of PTSD should be taken seriously. If you or someone you care about has shown any signs, symptoms, or effects of PTSD, get help today.

Long-Term Effects

Potential long-term effects of PTSD

The longer you deal with the signs and symptoms of PTSD, the greater your risk becomes for experiencing long-term effects. As with the short-term effects of this disorder, the onset and severity of the long-term effects of PTSD can vary considerably from person to person. The following are among the potential long-term effects of PTSD:

  • Destroyed personal and professional relationships
  • Inability to get and keep a job
  • Financial ruin
  • Worsening symptoms of other disorders
  • Serious medical problems due to reckless behaviors and poor self-care
  • Addiction
  • Overwhelming sense of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Isolation
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal thoughts and actions

The long-term effects of PTSD can be extremely detrimental to your physical, emotional, and socioeconomic well-being. If you or someone you care about has been dealing with any short- or long-term effects of PTSD, please seek professional help. With the right type and level of care, you can overcome the short- and long-term effects of PTSD and resume your pursuit of a healthier and more satisfying future.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Common co-occurring disorders among people who have PTSD

If you’ve been struggling with PTSD, you may have an increased risk for one or more additional disorders. Clinicians use the term co-occurring disorders to describe the simultaneous presence of multiple disorders. The following are among the co-occurring disorders that have been associated with posttraumatic stress disorder:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Substance use disorders (the clinical term for addiction)
  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)

There is no single cause-effect relationship between these disorders and PTSD. Some people experience the signs and symptoms of PTSD, then develop a co-occurring disorder. Others struggle with one of the disorders listed above prior to dealing with PTSD. Still others have PTSD but never develop a co-occurring disorder.

What’s most important is understanding that co-occurring disorders can impact your recovery from PTSD. Getting professional help from a provider who can address PTSD and any co-occurring disorders can increase your ability to achieve improved wellness.


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