PTSD develops differently from person to person. If you’ve lived through a traumatic incident, your symptoms may appear within hours or days of the event, or they may take weeks, months, or even years to develop. Symptoms can arise suddenly, gradually, or come and go over time.
There are three main types of PTSD symptoms: re-experiencing the traumatic event, avoiding reminders of the trauma, and symptoms of hyperarousal or heightened anxiety. In the days or months following a traumatic event, you may find yourself alternating between re-experiencing the event and avoiding reminders of it, with symptoms of increased arousal as the common backdrop.
Re-experiencing the traumatic event
The most disruptive symptoms of PTSD involve the flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive memories of the traumatic event. You may be flooded with horrifying images, sounds, and recollections of what happened. You may even feel like it’s happening again. These symptoms are sometimes referred to as intrusions, since they involve memories of the past that intrude on the present.
If you have PTSD, you may re-experience the traumatic event or intrusion in several ways:
-Intrusive memories of the traumatic event
-Bad dreams about the traumatic event
-Flashbacks or a sense of reliving the event
-Feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma
-Physiological stress response to reminders of the event (pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating)
-These distressing symptoms can appear at any time, sometimes seemingly out of the blue. At other times, they are triggered by something that reminds you of the original traumatic event: a noise, an image, certain words, a smell.