Suffering from PTSD? Here Are the Most Common Symptoms

7 min
Article preview picture

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health issue developed from traumatic events. A wide variety of situations can trigger a person to develop PTSD, such as experiencing or witnessing natural disasters, physical abuse, or traffic accidents. PTSD can cause varying degrees of symptoms, which can harm one's psychological well-being. 

It’s important to remember that PTSD is a completely natural response to feeling scared or distressed, especially after a traumatic incident. This is because fear is an emotion that protects people from dangerous situations. If you suspect that you may have developed specific symptoms of PTSD, you are not alone. We are here to support your recovery journey. This article will outline the causes, symptoms, and treatment approaches for PTSD. 

What is PTSD? 

The American Psychological Association defines post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a mental disorder that occurs among people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Generally speaking, PTSD is a mental health difficulty developed from an event that was deeply disturbing, distressing, or shocking to the extent of causing trauma. 

Whether or not a person will develop PTSD can depend on the severity of the traumatic event. Yet it’s important to note that PTSD is not an uncommon disorder: Studies have found that it’s actually one of the most prevalent mental health issues in the world. Moreover, people who have experienced these events have a higher chance of developing lifetime PTSD, especially if it’s left untreated.

What are the Causes of PTSD?

The onset of PTSD is facilitated by a traumatic incident. The experience of the event itself might not directly trigger the issue, but when the people who have gone through it become unable to move on, they will have a higher chance of developing PTSD. Studies have also found that a lack of social support, having a neurotic personality, and having a history of mood disorders can lead to a higher chance of developing PTSD.

It is also important to note that people with PTSD are not necessarily always a direct victim of a traumatic situation: witnesses of these events are also at high risk of developing these symptoms.  

Here are just a few examples of traumatic events that may lead to PTSD:

  • Natural disasters (e.g. an earthquake or tsunami)
  • Sexual violence or rape
  • Physical or emotional abuse
  • Terminal illness (e.g. cancer)
  • Traffic accidents
  • War or combat

What are the Symptoms of PTSD?

People with PTSD experience symptoms that may damage the way they function through their day-to-day. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, people with PTSD typically present the following symptoms for at least a month:

1. Intrusive Thoughts or Feelings

People with PTSD may re-experience the traumatic event in many ways ー and even at unexpected times ー for example, through nightmares, memories, or undesired flashbacks. These intrusions will remind them of the event, and such constant re-traumatization has an effect on their overall well-being. 

2. Avoidant Behavior

Individuals with PTSD actively avoid stimuli related to the traumatic event. For example, people who have experienced a severe traffic accident in the past may avoid cars, or become nervous around them. These stimuli can also be invisible, and don’t necessarily need to be a physical object or an environment: for instance, certain trigger words, thoughts, or types of conversation could act as reminders of a traumatic event. 

3. Altered Mood and Cognition

Memory alteration is a mechanism where people edit their memories to avoid painーwhether knowingly or unknowingly. This can happen to people with PTSD, who wish to alter their memories of a traumatic event. In other words, people with PTSD can actively forget specific details of the situation in question. Doing so can help prevent them from further ruminating over it, or even reduce their stress around it.

4. Functional Impairment

Individuals with PTSD may find it difficult to concentrate at work, or lack the motivation to engage in social situations. They may even feel unable to take care of themselves due to a depressed mood. These signs can disrupt our ability to function well on a daily basis.

5. Presence of Traumatic Event 

While it may sound obvious, one of the key factors in determining the condition of a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the existence of a traumatic event. PTSD symptoms have a tendency to linger, and people suffering from it tend to present these signs for at least a month. Experts from the American Psychiatric Association state that in order to receive an official PTSD diagnosis, it must be clear that these characteristics are not caused by other factors like medication and substance use. As a result, people displaying these signs without having experienced a traumatic event will not be diagnosed with PTSD. 

Treatment Options for PTSD

There are various approaches to treating PTSD. Here are some common holistic and scientific treatments for PTSD:

  • Mindfulness training: Mindfulness training ー including mindfulness-based stress reduction, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and metta mindfulness ー is effective in managing PTSD. Research has highlighted that mindfulness training can help restore the connectivity of brain networks, effectively rewiring your brain and in doing so, helping to reduce symptoms.
  • Art therapy: Art therapy involves using creative mediums such as coloring, drawing, and painting to help people with PTSD recover from mental health challenges. This soothing form of creativity offers people an alternate way to express their feelings, which can be very helpful, since talking about a traumatic event can be extremely difficult. Art therapy is a great way to relax the mind, and offers a means for processing a traumatic event and ultimately beginning the healing journey. 
  • Psycho-spiritual healing: The psycho-spiritual healing approach suggests that trauma-related spiritual distress can prolong the duration of symptoms. Psychologists have indicated that improving and building “spiritual strength” can help people shorten the duration of symptoms and increase mental strength. Ways to build this can look different for each person, but some great options include meditation, learning to trust the process while being less attached to the outcome, refilling your cup through things that give you strength, acknowledging your gratitude for the blessings or good things in your life, spending more time with supportive people, and teaching yourself to dig deeper inwards for greater resilience when going through a challenging experience.
  • Cognitive Behavioral therapy: Cognitive Behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psychoeducational approach to educating people on the concept that feelings result from cognition. Identifying specific thought patterns around a traumatic event can be the initial step towards recovery from PTSD. 
  • Prolonged exposure therapy: Prolonged exposure therapy is more suited to people with more severe conditions. The treatment directly exposes them to stimuli related to the traumatic event in question, with the goal of equipping them with skills to better deal with their feelings and reactions about the incident, and helping them recover. 

Recovering from PTSD can be challenging, but there is hope and potential for improvement and healing. One recent study found that the first three months can be the most critical part of the recovery journey from a traumatic event. No matter what stage someone is seeking help or support with their PTSD, with the appropriate guidance, recovery is indeed possible.

If you suspect that you might have developed PTSD symptoms, remember that you are not alone. There are people who can support your recovery journey, and help you overcome this challenge!


All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals that influenced this article: Global Prevalence And Associated Risk Factors Of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder During Covid-19 Pandemic: A Meta-AnalysisMultiple Traumatic Experiences, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder And Offending Behaviour In Female PrisonersNeuroticism And Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Prospective InvestigationThe Genetics Of Stress-Related Disorders: Ptsd, Depression, And Anxiety DisordersEffects Of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder On Interrogative Suggestibility In Minor Witnesses Of Sexual AbuseMindfulness-Based Treatments For Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Review Of The Treatment Literature And Neurobiological EvidenceBuilding Spiritual Strength: A Group Treatment For Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Moral Injury, And Spiritual DistressPtsd In The Year Following Sexual Assault: A Meta-Analysis Of Prospective Studie

Share this story
Read more
  • Article preview
    21 Feb 2022

    Holistic Treatments for PTSD

    5 min

    Treating post-traumatic stress disorder isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. PTSD manifests in different ways for different people, and at times, the healing journey can feel complicated, confusing, and downright disheartening. But studies show that incorporating complementary therapies into the treatment of PTSD can prove very effective一and what’s more, there are a wide variety of treatments, so there’s something for everyone. 

    Read full article
  • Article preview
    25 Feb 2022

    How to Heal Your Nervous System

    4 min

    Nervous system dysregulation is a surprisingly widespread phenomenon. According to Polyvagal Theory, which was developed by neuroscientist Stephen Porges in the 1990s, there’s a highly intricate system of signals transmitted between the brain and the body along the various branches of the vagus nerve. This pathway – which runs from the brain through to the abdomen – is integral to the functioning of organs and hormonal responses, as part of the Autonomic Nervous System. When the ANS is aroused by a sense of threat or stress, the fight or flight response kicks in. If the ANS is overwhelmed, the body begins to enter a freeze state, or shut-down. These responses are imperative for basic human survival, but the messages can get jumbled and result in chronic activation and dysregulation – which is detrimental to physical and psychological health. This strain on the body can result in all kinds of ailments, from anxiety to digestion issues, chronic pain, and life-threatening disease. Healing the nervous system is a vital piece of the well-being puzzle.

    Read full article
  • Article preview
    21 Feb 2022

    10 Ways to Boost Your Self-Esteem

    6 min

    Self-esteem is one of the cornerstones of psychological well-being. Maintaining a secure, accepting relationship with the self is one of the most beneficial things we can do to show up meaningfully in the world. Low self-esteem is a deep-rooted belief that we are not as worthy as other people – which is, of course, completely untrue. Everybody on this planet is equally deserving of taking up space, including you. Here are some effective practices for boosting self-esteem.

    Read full article
  • Article preview
    30 Mar 2022

    5 Tips for Dealing with Anxiety

    5 min

    Anxiety can feel like someone is controlling your body without your permission. Unlike nervousness, anxiety doesn’t usually go away easily, even after a stressful situation has ended. It tends to persist and, as a result, can affect daily life in many ways. Anxiety can make people feel like there is no way out, and it may create worrying feelings that you cannot control, even making you feel like you are starting to lose control of your life. This can be extremely harmful to our mental health, and leaving these feelings untreated can make people feel frustrated, stressed, and emotionally drained. 

    Read full article
  • Article preview
    19 Jul 2022

    5 Ways To Cope With Financial Stress

    6 min

    If clichés are to be believed, money is not only the root of all evil, it also cannot buy you happiness. Yet money – and our attachment to material wealth – still dictates almost everything we do. It’s one of the reasons why we go to work (although it shouldn’t be the only one), and it’s how we afford to buy nice things and foreign holidays. It pays for the roof over your head, and the food on your plate. There is also the argument that money is a form of energetic exchange – after all, it is a means of placing value on things that others have created or provided, and it’s part of the reciprocal give-and-take relationship we have with other people in our society, or the rest of the world. 

    Read full article