PTSD Symptoms, Signs & Effects

Ohio Hospital for Psychiatry offers effective, comprehensive treatment for individuals struggling with PTSD. Learn more about the signs and symptoms of PTSD.

What is PTSD

Learn More About PTSD

When faced with a traumatic experience, the most natural response is to react with fear, sadness, and sometimes even complete disconnection from the outside world. However, there are a number of people who will go on to develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a particularly traumatic event. Those who develop PTSD will continue to experience symptoms of fear and worry long after the event has passed. PTSD is a serious mental health disorder that is triggered by a terrifying event. The symptoms an individual experiences may include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

While not everyone who lives through a traumatic event will develop this disorder, PTSD can affect people of all ages and ethnicities. The development of PTSD is different in each person. Some individuals may notice symptoms in the days and weeks following the event while others will not develop symptoms for weeks, months, or even years after the event occurs. While any situation that causes people to feel helpless or as if they are in danger can lead to PTSD, the most common traumatic events include:

  • Rape/sexual assault
  • Kidnapping
  • Sexual or physical abuse
  • Child neglect
  • War
  • Plane crashes
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Sudden, unexpected death of a loved one
  • Natural disasters
  • Car accidents
  • Physical assault

While PTSD is an extremely debilitating disorder, there is help available to get you through this difficult time. With proper medication, support, and therapeutic interventions you will be able to move on with your life.


Statistics of PTSD

Each year, about 5.2 million adults struggle with PTSD; only a fraction of those who have experienced a trauma. PTSD is more common in women; approximately 10% of women develop post-traumatic stress disorder at some time in their lives compared to 5% of men. Additionally, there is a prevalence rate of 4% among children ages 13 to 18 years of age. About 7% to 8% of the population of the United States will develop PTSD at some point in their lifetime.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for PTSD

The main cause for the development of PTSD is experiencing, witnessing, or learning about a particularly traumatic event that causes an individual to feel intense fear, helplessness, and dread. However, it is unclear as to why some individuals will go on to develop this disorder while others do not. It is a commonly held belief that the development of post-traumatic stress disorder is caused by a variety of genetic, environmental, and physical factors working together. Some of the most common causes may include:

Genetic: People who have first-degree relatives with anxiety disorders or other types of mental illnesses are at a greater risk for developing PTSD after being exposed to a traumatic event. Additionally, inherited mental health risks such as an increased risk for anxiety or depression can play a role, as can inherited aspects of one’s personality.

Physical: Scientific studies have indicated that the brains of those with PTSD have noted marked differences in the structure of certain areas of the brain. Additionally, the level of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin may be lower in those who have an anxiety disorder. So the way in which an individual’s brain regulates chemicals and hormones in the body, which are released in response to stress, can cause the development of PTSD.

Environmental: People who live in high-stress situations, such as seeing violence on a daily basis, can put individuals at increased risk for developing PTSD. Additionally, all of your life experiences such as the existence of childhood abuse or experiencing of other traumas throughout life can lead to the onset of PTSD.

Risk Factors:

  • Being abused or neglected as a child
  • Being female
  • Existence of other mental health problems
  • Lacking a good support system

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of PTSD

The symptoms of PTSD may develop suddenly, can begin gradually, or come and go over time. Sometimes these symptoms seem to appear out of know where while at other times they occur in response to a trigger that reminds an individual about the traumatic event. The symptoms of PTSD are generally grouped into three different categories and can include:

Re-Experiencing Symptoms:

  • Flashbacks – acting or feeling as if the event is occurring again
  • Intrusive, upsetting memories of the event
  • Feelings of intense distress when reminded of event
  • Nightmares
  • Severe distress when reminded of the trauma
  • Intense physical reactions to reminders of the event- pounding heart, sweating, rapid breathing
  • Disruptions in everyday routine

Avoidance Symptoms:

  • Avoiding activities, places, thoughts, or feeling that remind you of event
  • Hopelessness about future
  • Loss of interest in activities and life in general
  • Feeling detached from others
  • Challenges recalling important parts of the traumatic event
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Avoiding activities once enjoyed

Hyperarousal Symptoms:

  • Irritable or experiencing angry outbursts
  • Having difficulty sleeping
  • Feeling jumpy and easily startled
  • Hypervigilance
  • Difficulty concentrating


Effects of PTSD

If not properly treated, the long-term effects that result from PTSD can cause significant impairment in the lives of those who are struggling with this debilitating disorder. Additionally, having PTSD can place an individual at a higher risk for developing a number of other mental health disorders and some types of medical illnesses. Fortunately, with proper treatment, support, and certain lifestyle changes individuals can learn to move past their PTSD allowing them to lead happier more productive lives. Long-term problems may include:

  • Social isolation and withdrawal
  • Loss of occupational or scholastic functioning
  • Decreased ability to have successful interpersonal relationships
  • Separation or divorce
  • Increased amount of substance abuse
  • Worsening physical health problems
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Eating disorders
  • Chronic pain
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Suicide

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders of PTSD

It is very uncommon for post-traumatic stress disorder to occur on its own and most commonly presents with other mental health disorders. In fact research indicates that 80% of those diagnosed with PTSD struggling with another disorder. Some of the most common co-occurring disorders may include:

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Depressive disorders
  • Other anxiety disorders
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal ideation

Undealt with trauma was crippling my relationship with my husband. Only OHP was able to treat my PTSD. Ohio Hospital for Psychiatry was able to not only able to treat my PTSD, but also saved my marriage!

– Pam E.