The following list of general symptoms (provided by Sidran Institute as per the DSM IV) is the official list of what PTSD looks like. If you
recognize yourself in this list, or if you recognize the reflection of someone you love, it’s time to get some professional help.
The journey to healing begins with recognizing the problem. Here it is, plain and simple:
In the immediate aftermath of trauma – say, the first month or so – many people suffer from Acute Stress, which includes the following
symptoms: Anxiety, Behavioral disturbances, Dissociation, Hyper-arousal, Avoidance of memories related to the trauma, Flashbacks, and
All of these symptoms are part of the normal steps of how trauma survivors process the recent event. However, if these symptoms persist
for more than one month (and begin to functionally and socially impair – and significantly upset - the survivor), then the diagnosis is
changed to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. According to the DSM-IV Classification this means the subject meets the following six criteria:
A. The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following were present:
1. the person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury,
or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others.
2. the person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.
B. The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in one (or more) of the following ways:
1. recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions
2. recurrent distressing dreams of the event
3. acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and
dissociative flashback episodes, including those that occur on awakening or when intoxicated)
4. intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event
5. physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event
C. Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the trauma), as
indicated by three (or more) of the following:
1. efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma
2. efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma
3. inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma
4. markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
5. feeling of detachment or estrangement from others
6. restricted range of affect (e.g., unable to have loving feelings)
7. sense of a foreshortened future (e.g., does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span)
D. Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (not present before the trauma), as indicated by two (or more) of the following:
1. difficulty falling or staying asleep
2. irritability or outbursts of anger
3. difficulty concentrating
5. exaggerated startle response
E. Duration of the disturbance (symptoms in Criteria B, C, and D) is more than 1 month.
F. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
The above symptoms apply to all types of PTSD. However, with further classifications come added delineations:
Complex-PTSD. The first requirement for this diagnosis is that the individual experienced a prolonged period (months to years) of total
control by another. The other criteria are symptoms that tend to result from chronic victimization. Those symptoms include:
Alterations in emotional regulation. This may include symptoms such as persistent sadness, suicidal thoughts, explosive anger, or inhibited
Alterations in consciousness. This includes things such as as forgetting traumatic events, reliving traumatic events, or having episodes in
which one feels detached from one’s mental processes or body
Changes in self-perception. This may include a sense of helplessness, shame, guilt, stigma, and a sense of being completely different than
other human beings
Alterations in the perception of the perpetrator. For example; 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. Variations in personal relations including isolation, distrust, or a repeated search for a rescuer
Changes in one’s system of meanings. This may include a loss of sustaining faith or a sense of hopelessness and despair
Combat PTSD. Following deployment in a war zone, many veterans return home significantly altered. They have a changed view of
themselves and the world around them. For some, reactions to their experiences may be short-lived (perhaps lasting the first few months of
reintegration back into civilian life). For others, healing may require long-term vigilance and care (lasting months, years and even decades).
Typical symptoms of combat-related PTSD are:
•Problems with intimacy
•Preoccupation with thoughts of the enemy
•Thinking that feelings are meaningless
•Feeling powerless or hopeless
•Resignation (“don’t care”)