Recognizing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

When a person goes through a sudden traumatic event where they experienced or witnessed an event that involved a threat to self or others, it is normal to go through a natural grieving process. At times, however, problematic feelings and behaviors may surface several weeks or months after the tragedy. This is called post-traumatic stress disorder, otherwise known as PTSD. When you recognize these symptoms in yourself or others it can become the first step toward recovery and finding appropriate treatment.

  • Intense, clear, and vivid images of the event
  • Intrusive thoughts that you can’t get out of your head
  • Feelings of fear, hopelessness, and despair
  • Avoiding places, activities, or people that arouse recollections of the event
  • Increased alertness and anxiety
  • Inability to recall important aspects of the event
  • Crying uncontrollably
  • Feeling overwhelmed by normal, everyday situations
  • Diminished interest in performing normal tasks
  • Feeling guilty about surviving the event or not being able to prevent it
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Feelings of irritability, anger, and suspiciousness
  • Using drugs or alcohol to get through the day
  • Isolating oneself from family and friends
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Perceiving the world as unsafe, unsteady, unpredictable, and unfair

Colorado Therapy Care, PC, Carrie Merscham, PsyD. 2007.
Source: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-Fourth Edition, APA, 1994.