Can relationships give you PTSD

Post traumatic stress disorder - symptoms

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Symptoms in Detail

The main symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder are:

  • The involuntary remembering and reliving the trauma (intrusions and flashbacks)
  • Avoidance, suppression and forgetting of what is happening
  • Nervousness, anxiety and irritability
  • Flattening of feelings and interests

Involuntary reliving of trauma (intrusions, flashbacks)

Those affected are spontaneously overwhelmed by memories of the traumatic experience and cannot arbitrarily control or suppress it. For some, only a fraction of the memory comes up, while others suffer from so-called flashbacks. Flashbacks describe the hallucination-like stepping back into what is happening. Those affected have the feeling that they are mentally reliving the situation. Triggers are often so-called key stimuli, for example when a war victim hears screams or a burn victim smells smoke. The recurrence of traumatic memories in the form of nightmares is also typical of post-traumatic stress disorder. Symptoms on a physical level such as shortness of breath, tremors, dizziness, rapid heartbeat and sweating can then set in.

Avoidance, repressing and forgetting

For their own protection, many victims avoid thoughts, situations and activities that might awaken memories of what happened. For example, anyone who has witnessed a traffic accident avoids public transport and driving. Burn victims may then avoid lighting candles or a fireplace. This avoidance is counterproductive to recovery in the long run. It increases anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.

Nervousness, anxiety and irritability (hyperarousal)

Many trauma victims are very open to irritation and their nerves are bare. They are extremely vigilant (hypervigilant) because they subconsciously always consider themselves in danger. Those affected are very scared and fearful. In the long run this condition is very exhausting for the body and it leads to concentration difficulties. The attention span shortens more and more over time. Reading a book or watching a movie then sometimes becomes impossible for the trauma victims.

This generalized tension leads to easy irritability and disproportionate outbursts of anger. Relatives of those affected report a sudden change in the nature of previously balanced and relaxed people.

If this constant tension continues at night, it can lead to problems falling asleep and staying asleep. In addition, some people suffer from nightmares. A lack of sleep is very harmful in the long run. Those affected can no longer relax properly, and the body and mind do not have a chance to recover. As a result, the resilience usually decreases in everyday life. The persistent fear and tension can often be relieved a little with sport and exercise. However, the overcoming of this is very great for many patients.

Flattening of interests and feelings (numbing)

A post-traumatic stress disorder can have a lasting effect on the joy of life. Often those affected lose all interests and withdraw from social life. They lose their lust for life and no longer plan their future. Some are also no longer able to feel anything. Emotions such as joy, love or sadness can then no longer be properly experienced. Feelings become numb (numbing = numbness). The trauma victims often feel alienated and have the feeling that what they have experienced separates them from their fellow human beings and relatives. This change in emotional life often ends in depression.

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: Symptoms

Some trauma victims also show a personality change as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder. One then speaks of a complex post-traumatic stress disorder. Symptoms here are more related to behavior and personality:

  • Change in emotion regulation (sexuality, anger, self-harming behavior)
  • Changes in attention and awareness
  • Changed self-perception (feelings of guilt, shame, isolation, loss of self-worth)
  • Changes in relationships with others (trust problems)
  • Somatization (pain without a physical cause)
  • Change in attitude to life (helplessness, hopelessness, no joy in life)

Some symptoms in detail:

Change in emotion regulation and impulse control

Emotional regulation and impulse control are often disturbed in complex post-traumatic stress disorder. Feelings like anger, anger and aggression cannot be viewed with the necessary distance. This leads to disproportionate outbursts of emotions or an enormous effort is made to hide this loss of control from others. Often those affected "help" themselves with alcohol or drugs in order to calm down and try to tackle the complex post-traumatic stress disorder.

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder brings about various changes in behavior. For example, self-harming behavior is often found in those affected. Excessive acting out or avoiding sexual activity is also more common.

Change in attention

A complex post-traumatic stress disorder also often brings about a change in attention. Patients get into a so-called dissociative state. They then temporarily no longer perceive the outside world properly, “stand beside themselves” and everything seems unreal to them.


Some sufferers who have complex post-traumatic stress disorder are prone to somatization. You suffer from physical symptoms for which no organic cause can be found.

Changes in relationships with others

Relationship perception also suffers from the complex post-traumatic stress disorder. Complex traumatized people often find it difficult to get involved in human closeness. Due to the traumatic experience, trust is difficult and contact with fellow human beings is difficult. Often complex traumatized people do not have a good sense of their own limits and occasionally exceed them.

Coping with everyday life and quality of life can be severely impaired by a (complex) Post-traumatic stress disorder. Symptoms are often not initially associated with their traumatic experience, which can make it difficult to identify them.