Psychiatrist Blog

A Guide to PTSD Symptoms and Causes

ptsd symptoms

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder resulting from a person witnessing or being a part of a traumatic event or events. 

The pathophysiology of PTSD is not well understood. The event could be from one exposure or repetitive exposure to experiences like serious accidents, sexual violence, medical illness, combat or war, natural disasters, and childhood trauma. 

The 4 Categories of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Symptoms

man with ptsd

There are four main categories of PTSD symptoms:

  1. Intrusive thoughts or flashbacks. This means that a person who has witnessed or been a part of a traumatic event can have repetitive intrusive thoughts, memories, nightmares, or flashbacks of the traumatic event. 
  2. Avoidance symptoms. Avoiding events, or anything that would remind a person of the traumatic event. This might mean avoiding a physical area, people, or specific activities.
  3. A change in a person’s mood or ability to remember the specifics of the traumatic event. Mood can be altered due to continued belief about a person’s self or others. These feelings can include but are not limited to guilt, shame, anger, fear, or feeling detached. 
  4. A change in a person’s behavior. Becoming irritable, easily angered or startled, as well as being hyperaware of one’s surroundings.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Diagnosis And Treatment

ptsd patient

The diagnostic criteria for the diagnosis of PTSD include:

  • Exposure to a traumatic event
  • Avoidance of events, people, places, conversations, or objects associated with the trauma 
  • Intrusive memories, nightmares, or flashbacks of the traumatic events or event
  • Alterations in reactivity or arousal: irritable behavior, trouble concentrating, sleep disturbances, or hyper-vigilance 
  • Negative altered mood or cognition: unable to recall specifics about the event, persistent negative thoughts about self or others, or feelings of detachment 
  • Symptoms last > 1 month
therapy for ptsd

Treatment of PTSD is multifactorial and unique to the symptoms a person is experiencing. PTSD’s first line of treatment is SSRI, a type of antidepressant.

Read our guide to PTSD Treatment here for more information.

For more information about PTSD and other mental health problems or to book a consultation with a mental health professional from PNS, visit our website.

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