Veterans Affairs definition:
What are the symptoms of PTSD?

There are four types of PTSD symptoms:

1. Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms)

Memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place. For example:
You may have nightmares.
You may feel like you are going through the event again. This is called a flashback.
You may see, hear, or smell something that causes you to relive the event. This is called a trigger. News reports, seeing an accident, or hearing a car backfire are examples of triggers.

2. Avoiding situations that remind you of the event

You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event. For example:
You may avoid crowds, because they feel dangerous.
You may avoid driving if you were in a car accident or if your military convoy was bombed.
If you were in an earthquake, you may avoid watching movies about earthquakes.
You may keep very busy or avoid seeking help because it keeps you from having to think or talk about the event.

3. Negative changes in beliefs and feelings

The way you think about yourself and others changes because of the trauma. This symptom has many aspects, including the following:
You may not have positive or loving feelings toward other people and may stay away from relationships.
You may forget about parts of the traumatic event or not be able to talk about them.
You may think the world is completely dangerous, and no one can be trusted.

4. Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal)
You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. You might suddenly become angry or irritable. This is known as hyperarousal. For example:
You may have a hard time sleeping.
You may have trouble concentrating.
You may be startled by a loud noise or surprise.
You might want to have your back to a wall in a restaurant or waiting room.

PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event. But for some people, they may not happen until months or years after the trauma. Symptoms may come and go over many years. So, you should keep track of your symptoms and talk to someone you trust about them.

Complex PTSD differs in the duration of abuse. Most complex PTSD or a big chunk is from childhood abuse.

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) is a psychological injury that results from protracted exposure to prolonged social and/or interpersonal trauma with lack or loss of control, disempowerment, and in the context of either captivity or entrapment, i.e. the lack of a viable escape route for the victim. C-PTSD is distinct from, but similar to, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Symptoms are:
Difficulties regulating emotions, including symptoms such as persistent sadness, suicidal thoughts, explosive anger, or covert anger.
Variations in consciousness, such as forgetting traumatic events (i.e., psychogenic amnesia), reliving traumatic events, or having episodes of dissociation (during which one feels detached from one’s mental processes or body).
Changes in self-perception, such as a chronic and pervasive sense of helplessness, shame, guilt, stigma, and a sense of being completely different from other human beings.
Varied changes in the perception of the perpetrator, such as attributing total power to the perpetrator or becoming preoccupied with the relationship to the perpetrator, including a preoccupation with revenge.
Alterations in relations with others, including isolation, distrust, or a repeated search for a rescuer.
Loss of, or changes in, one’s system of meanings, which may include a loss of sustaining faith or a sense of hopelessness and despair.
The most informative book on Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence–from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror by Judith Herman.

12 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Katy Sturgis on March 14, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    This a great article and I can connect to some of the things mentioned in it. The only question I have is being in an abusive verbally and a little physical abuse thrown in to a long term relationship a kind of event that would be considered a possible event that could fit under the category of PTSD along with the symptoms?

  2. it does not have to be an event, it can be a pattern over a time frame, as a childhood, redeployments over and over or your relationship, for how ever long you have lived in it.

    What are your symptoms and what has been going on?

    You will have jolts of cortisol triggered by thoughts that carry emotion fear and terror.

    certain people, places or situations ignite a fight or flight response. hard to miss trauma turned PTSD.

  3. I was diagnosed with PTSD while I was at the combat stress clinic in F.O.B. Anaconda (Iraq). They sent me home and told me that I can rejoin in 2 years. Now that I have made it home they conveniently lost all records of diagnosing me with PTSD or prescribing me with Seraquil for sleep. The sleep problems still come and go from time to time. I just want help getting my records so that I can get my medical privileges back. I’m just looking for help figuring this problem out. Thank you!

  4. Thank you for your service and courage to reach out for help.

    You can start improving on your own because the journey to heal deals with the way we handle thoughts with those thoughts, flashbacks and triggers.

    If you can commit to working on developing focus on the breath everyday for15 minutes and applying to every random thought, your life can change drastically.

    I am here everyday to support you, answer questions and point out the landscape ahead.


  5. Posted by An on July 14, 2013 at 10:48 am

    Thank you for these helpful posts. I am a survivor of child abuse which I now know resulted in dissociative periods. I was diagnosed PTSD in 2011 as a result of domestic violence which ended in 2009.
    I have all the classic symptoms PTSD but am concerned because I’m having flashbacks associated with my childhood as well as my ex. I also seem to be getting worse; minimal sleep, hyper-arrousal, super avoidance (don’t feel safe leaving my room), and my periods of dissociation are very frequent. I have’nt worked (clinical therapist) for the last 1 1/2 years. The medications I am prescribe don’t seem to make a difference. I am in couples counseling with my current spouse and know I need more treatment than individual, couples, and medications. My fear is that I won’t go back to (my) normal.

  6. thank you for posting this I think its very helpful

  7. Dear Marty,

    I want to take the time to thank you for the incredibly useful mental health information and resources you provide.

    My name is Gaby Acosta, and I’m the community manager for MSW@USC, USC’s Masters in Social Work program. I was wondering if you would be willing to include our Military Mental Health Resource Guide to Depression, TBI & PTSD, which aims to raise awareness around symptoms, causes and treatments of the various mental health issues that military service members and their families may face. The resource can be seen here:

    Your community may also be interested in USC’s military social work sub-concentration. Information about the MSW@USC Military Social Work program can be seen here:

    I can only hope that one of them would see the information and be inspired to take the first step to either seeking treatment for themselves or dedicating their lives to helping veterans. Thank you for your time!

    In solidarity,

  8. Posted by Anonymous on December 18, 2014 at 2:03 am

    I have been working with Marty for several months or should I say HE has been working with me. Marty has given me a way out. I don’t struggle with my issues as much as I use to,, It seems that my day is complete after doing our TIME together.
    I can’t tell you what a compassionate man he is. Light at the end of the tunnel

  9. Posted by Anonymous on January 26, 2015 at 2:01 am

    After being in therapy for 3 years and thinking for half my life I had “bad anxiety”, I was just diagnosed with C-PTSD. Reading this makes me feel better, knowing some of the things that I feel, others feel. I alway tell my friends “I don’t think like other humans” and I don’t think they understand what that means or how I feel, and that’s frustrating. Also, the constant search for someone to rescue me. The thoughts and the feelings have become so strong that sometimes I feel like I can’t continue to live my life this way. I’m glad I found this and see that it has helped others, I hope it can help me too.

  10. I am full of anxiety all the time after finding my girlfriend of 5 years in our home after she took her own life. I barely can work and relive what I saw everyday in some form or fashion. Anxiety meds are not helping and I am seeing a therapist and receiving EMDR treatments but condition has been getting worse. I have almost exhausted my savings and don’t know where to turn for help.

  11. Anxiety
    Meds are temporary and will
    Lose effectiveness in time

    I can help you help
    Yourself if your
    Willing to do the work

    Breathing track model and practice

  12. Posted by Sean Dunham on May 9, 2016 at 7:09 pm

    I will do whatever it takes.. I am desperate for sleep and feel like there is no end in sight. Thx

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