Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 9/10/2019

Posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is an emotional illness caused by terribly frightening, life-threatening, or otherwise highly unsafe experiences. It is classified as a trauma- and stressor-related disorder by psychiatrists.

Signs and symptoms of PTSD include re-experiencing the trauma or event, flashbacks, nightmares, avoidance, emotional numbing, and hyperarousal. Other associated symptoms can include a negative view of oneself, irritability, hostility, loss of interest in activities, anger, sleep problems, trouble concentrating, and reckless or self-destructive behavior. When PTSD goes untreated, there may be devastating, long-term consequences for the individual's functioning and relationships, their families, and for society in general.

Causes of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Devastating life events, including unemployment or divorce, and frightening or life-threatening experiences may cause PTSD.

Other posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms and signs

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Avoidance of Situations That Evoke Traumatic Memories
  • Depression
  • Emotional Detachment
  • Fear
  • Flashback
  • Guilt
  • Heightened Reactions
  • Hostility
  • Hypervigilance
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Loss of Interest in Activities
  • Mistrust
  • Nightmares
  • Self-Destructive Behavior
  • Trouble Concentrating


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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.