Signs, Effects & Symptoms of PTSD

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Cross Creek Hospital helps children, adolescents, and adults who are struggling with PTSD through an unmatched quality of care and support. Located in Austin, TX, Cross Creek is the leading provider of PTSD treatment.

Learn More About PTSD Treatment

Learn more about PTSD treatment at Cross Creek Hospital in Austin, TX

Posttraumatic stress disorder, more commonly referred to simply as PTSD, is a mental health condition that develops when a person witnesses or experiences a traumatic event or a series of traumatic events. There are many events that can elicit the onset of PTSD, including things such as natural disasters, terrorist attacks, being the victim of abuse or crime, surviving a plane crash or car accident, and deployment, amongst countless others. Any event that elicits extreme distress and feelings of helplessness and/or victimization can potentially result in the development of posttraumatic stress disorder. The effects of this illness can have a tremendously negative impact on a person’s life. However, fortunately there are many viable treatment options available that help individuals overcome this distressing illness.


PTSD statistics

Research on the prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder has indicated that approximately 5.2 million adults suffer from the symptoms of this mental health condition. Women are said to be affected by PTSD in greater numbers than men are, with 10% compared to 5% respectively. However, discussion has arisen regarding these percentages due to the belief that women are more likely to seek treatment when they are suffering from PTSD, leading many professionals in the field to conclude that these percentages do not accurately convey the true prevalence of this illness in men. PTSD affects many children and adolescents as well, with estimates showing that 3%-15% of female youth and 1%-6% of male youth experience the onset of PTSD symptoms following exposure to trauma. Again, however, there continues to be debate on the accuracy of these percentages due to the fact that many young people do not receive appropriate treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for PTSD

The onset of posttraumatic stress disorder lies in one’s experiencing an event that is traumatic in nature or that has a profound impact on his or her life. However, there are certain causes and risk factors that are inherently present in an individual that makes him or her more susceptible to developing this illness. Such possible causes and risk factors are described in the following:

Genetic: Similar to other mental health conditions, the development of posttraumatic stress disorder has a strong genetic link. Individuals who have family members who have suffered from PTSD or who have a family history of anxiety disorders are more susceptible to suffering from this illness following a trauma than are those individuals who do not share similar genetic backgrounds.

Environmental: The environment that surrounds a person can significantly impact whether or not he or she will develop PTSD following a traumatic event. For example, if an individual lacks an adequate support system and/or proper coping skills, the risk that he or she will develop symptoms synonymous with posttraumatic stress disorder after experiencing a traumatic event are greatly heightened. Additionally, people who are exposed to chronically high levels of stress, are subjected to chaotic home environments, or who have experienced traumatic events in the past are also at an increased risk for experiencing the onset of this disorder.

Risk Factors:

  • Experiencing a traumatic event or a series of traumatic events
  • Lacking healthy coping skills
  • Lacking a strong support network
  • Being female
  • Having a family history of mental health conditions, especially anxiety disorders
  • Suffering from a preexisting mental illness
  • Personal history of substance abuse and addiction

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of PTSD

The symptoms that will be displayed by an individual who is suffering from PTSD will vary from person to person depending on a number of different factors. The type of trauma that one experienced, the longevity of the trauma, the support system available to a person, and the coping skills that a person possesses will all contribute to the types of symptoms that are exhibited. Typically classified into three different categories of symptomologies, the following are examples of various signs and symptoms that can be indicative of the presence of posttraumatic stress disorder:

Re-experiencing symptoms:

  • Flashbacks that make the person feel as though the trauma is happening again
  • Recurrent, disturbing nightmares
  • Experiencing physical symptoms, such as labored breathing, excessive sweating, or an increase in heart rate, when thinking about, or being reminded of, the trauma
  • Intrusive memories about the trauma

Avoidance symptoms:

  • Avoiding people, places, and/or situations that evoke memories of the trauma
  • Inability to remember details about the trauma
  • Feelings of hopelessness about the future
  • Loss of interest in things that one used to enjoy or be interested in

Hyperarousal symptoms:

  • Angry outbursts
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Constantly feeling on edge or concerned that something bad is going to happen
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Excessive irritability


Effects of PTSD

There are many treatment options for PTSD that are successful in helping to alleviate the distressing symptoms of this disorder. However, when left untreated, the effects of posttraumatic stress disorder have the potential to lead to many negative effects in a person’s life. Examples of such detriments can include, but are not limited to:

  • Decline in occupational performance, possibly leading to job loss
  • Decline in academic performance, potentially leading to academic failure or truancy
  • Deterioration of interpersonal relationships
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Onset of self-harming behaviors
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Chronic pain
  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Onset of symptoms of another mental health condition

Co-Occuring Disorders

PTSD and co-occurring disorders

Research has shown that approximately 80% of individuals who are suffering from PTSD also meet clinical diagnostic criteria for another mental health condition. The following are examples of some of the most commonly cited disorders and conditions known to co-occur alongside posttraumatic stress disorder:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Substance use disorders
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Past Clients Say

The kind, warm, individualized treatment that I received at Cross Creek Hospital fostered a safe environment for me to open up, talk about my fears, and face them head on. I am now able to manage my PTSD symptoms in a healthy way.

– Former Patient