Understanding the Signs and Symptoms of PTSD

Deconstructing the parts of PTSD and what a traumatic event is.

Photo Source: Pierre Bamin on Unsplash

Disclaimer: Although I have personal and professional experience in the mental health field, I am not a licensed mental health professional. The information contained in this article is meant for educational and entertainment purposes only. The contents of this article are not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any disorder.

PTSD is a common disorder that people don’t fully understand. Usually, a connection of PTSD is made to combat veterans. While that is correct, anyone can get PTSD; you don’t have to go through a war to develop PTSD.

The crucial part of PTSD is the traumatic event that someone experienced. Now, this does not mean a one-time event will cause debilitating symptoms. It can be a slew of various events or traumatic events in childhood.

In fact, I know many people that don’t have just one traumatic event that they experience. Instead, they endure an abusive or neglectful home that leaves them feeling unprotected in the world.

What counts as a traumatic event?

Before we dive into the symptoms of PTSD, it is essential to understand precisely what a traumatic event is.

Trauma doesn’t have a set definition because it can vary from person to person. But overall, a traumatic event is something that you had little control over, that was very scary, or a real threat was present — all exceeding your ability to cope effectively.

How we respond to threats is crucial to understand. With traumatic events, there is the fight, flight, or freeze response. Your fight, flight, or freeze response occurs when there is an imminent danger or a threat to your safety.

Traumatic events are any event that impacts you negatively. If your fight, flight, or freeze response is activated, this could potentially be a traumatic event.

The type of response you have to a traumatic event can vary from the type of event, if a pattern of abuse is present, your interpersonal relationships, and even your personality. There are many different factors that can contribute to how someone will respond to a threat.

The inability to cope is the actual distinction for developing PTSD.

What happens to someone doesn’t matter as much about their reaction and coping abilities. Not everybody who experiences a traumatic event is going to develop PTSD.

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Symptoms of PTSD

PTSD is a disorder that anyone can get from a traumatic experience, but not all people who experience a traumatic event(s) will develop PTSD. The amount of how much this traumatic event affected you and other various factors can cause the development of PTSD.

Intrusive memories

Recurrent and unwanted memories of a traumatic event that causes distress.


Avoidance is simply avoiding the situations, person, objects, etc., that may be linked to the traumatic event.

Negative changes in one’s thoughts and mood

When flashbacks of memories from the traumatic event resurface, it can negatively impact your mood and thoughts. Your thinking may revert back to a more negative outlook on life than I usually am.

Changes to physical and emotional reactions

Reactions and emotions can differ significantly after a traumatic event. Some people with PTSD can be very jumpy and easily startled.

Much like any other mental health disorder, PTSD can look differently for everyone. But there are symptoms and signs that are common amongst those with PTSD. Understanding the signs, and knowing the symptoms of PTSD can help spread awareness to the disorder.

from that psych nerd on newsbreak