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A bereaved mothers journey

Symptoms of PTSD

Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on November 10, 2019
You thought it was behind you. When time passes after a traumatic event, it’s natural to think your mind and body have healed and moved on. But symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can pop up months or even years later.

Unlike a rash or broken arm, PTSD can be tough to identify, especially when it’s happening in your own mind. Though it can look and feel like depression or rage, PTSD is different. And it can affect everything from the way you sleep to your relationships at home and work.

If you see yourself in any of these symptoms, check with your doctor for a diagnosis.

Memories

Whether you’re thinking about it or not, memories of the traumatic event can come back to bother you. You may experience them in your sleep as nightmares or during the day as flashbacks. That means you relive the event as if it’s happening for the first time.

Both can cause you to feel anxious, afraid, guilty, or suspicious. These emotions may play out physically in the form of chills, shaking, headaches, heart palpitations, and panic attacks.

Avoidance

You don’t want to think about it. You don’t want to talk about it. You steer clear of everyone and everything that reminds you of the event, including places and activities.

Avoidance can also mean staying away from people in general — not just the ones connected with the event. This can cause you to feel detached and alone.

Behavior Changes

Doctors call these “arousal symptoms.” They can make your emotions more intense or make you react differently than you normally would. For example, if you’re a careful driver, you might start driving too fast or be super-aggressive on the road. Irrational, angry outbursts are very common.

Many find it hard to focus. Feelings of danger and being under attack can ruin concentration and keep you from finishing tasks you do every day. This can also lead to trouble sleeping, whether you’re having nightmares or not.

Mood Swings

PTSD doesn’t always come with clues like nightmares and flashbacks. Sometimes it seems like a mood change unrelated to the traumatic event.

You’ll know it by its negativity. You may feel hopeless, numb, or bad about yourself or others. Thoughts of suicide can come and go. Deep feelings of guilt and shame are common, as well.

Activities you normally enjoy may not interest you anymore. Your motivation to maintain relationships with close friends and family could be low.

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