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How Can You Tell If Someone Has PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health condition that has serious side effects. The symptoms start after the person has experienced the trauma, and the brain goes through neurochemical changes that affect how you feel. The principal thing about PTSD is that it doesn’t just go away. Many people go through a traumatic event, but it’s what happens after that makes it PTSD. The problem is that it isn’t always easy to spot the indicators of this disorder. This leads many people to ask, “How can you tell if someone has PTSD?” Whether it’s someone you love or yourself, here is more on what you need to know about PTSD. We’ll look at the effects and how to get help for PTSD symptoms and effects.

The Effects of PTSD

PTSD has distinct effects, and there are many. They can range from nightmares and flashbacks to cognitive delays. Some people develop eating disorders or experience minimized verbal memory capacity. The fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM-IV) showcases approximately 18 key signs of PTSD. The thing is, everyone is unique. That means while one person may get a few of the effects, someone else may get entirely different effects. It is also uncommon for someone to have all 18 signs.

There are five categories of PTSD symptoms, known as clusters. In the past, researchers shared three categories. Yet, in an updated version of DSM, they changed it to five. These five categories are:


The trauma exposed the person to life-threatening severe illness or injury. Threatened or actual violence or injury happened. In this cluster, doctors require one of the following.

  • Witnessing a trauma.
  • Direct exposure to a trauma.
  • Learning a loved one experienced trauma.
  • Exposure through work, like a first responder.

Intrusion Symptoms

This is when the person who experienced the traumatic event relives it through their thoughts and memories. In this section, therapists require one of the following symptoms.

  • Nightmares.
  • Experiencing triggers, physical reactions to being exposed to reminders.
  • Flashbacks.
  • Intense and distressing memories.


This is when the individual tries to avoid all thoughts of the event or trauma. This cluster requires one of the following.

  • Avoiding emotions or thoughts of the trauma. Some use alcohol or drugs to do this.
  • Avoiding external reminders of the event

Unpleasant Changes to Mood or Thoughts

This cluster requires two of the below symptoms.

  • Feelings of isolation.
  • Blaming others or oneself for the trauma.
  • Negative effect and difficulty feeling positive.
  • Decreased interest in things that were once enjoyable.
  • Difficulty feeling positive.
  • Inability to remember the trauma clearly.

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Changes in Reactivity

In this section, therapists require two from the following. This cluster happens when the individual is easily reactive to experiences. Think of someone easily startled or hypervigilant.

  • Difficulty with sleep: either staying asleep or insomnia.
  • Irritability or aggression.
  • Engaging in risky or destructive behavior.
  • Hyperawareness or hypervigilance.
  • Heightened startle response.
  • Difficulty concentrating.

In all the sections, the individual must have symptoms that last at least 30 days. They also must have symptoms that cause functional impairment or distress.

How Can You Tell?

Having a professional diagnosis is crucial, yet there are signs that someone is suffering from PTSD. These signs alert you to something being wrong, even if you’re not aware of the trauma the person experienced.

The eight most common indicators of PTSD are:

  1. Reliving the trauma. Some individuals have distressing memories and thoughts about the event. They may try to avoid this, but the thoughts are persistent.
  2. Sleep problems. Sleep difficulties can be from several issues, but they are also an indicator of PTSD. Especially when combined with other indicators.
  3. Chronic anxiety. Hypervigilance, staying on-guard, and having trouble with relaxation are some indicators.
  4. Anger. An individual with PTSD may experience frequent irritability and outbursts of anger.
  5. Depression. It is not rare for those with PTSD to experience depression, too. Some may lose their interest in things that previously brought them joy.
  6. Disconnection and numbness. There is often a disconnect between others and the individual with PTSD. They still love their family and friends but feel numb and hopeless.
  7. Suicidal thoughts. These suicidal thoughts may be passive or active. Passive thoughts include thinking others would be better off without you. Active thoughts include thinking of buying a gun or how you would do it.
  8. Feeling unsafe. The person with this indicator feels doom or fear even when nothing warrants those feelings.

The American Psychiatric Association’s criteria for PTSD includes those eight criteria. And by their rules, you must meet all eight of them to get a PTSD diagnosis. Fortunately, we help you with treatment after a PTSD diagnosis.

A PTSD Treatment Center

For anyone suffering with PTSD, treatment is crucial. PTSD causes devastating effects that harm the person’s well-being and those around them. While it affects relationships and mental well-being, it also causes physical and health issues.

According to Very Well Mind:

Studies have found that compared to those without PTSD, people with PTSD are more likely to experience health problems including:

  • Arthritis
  • Heart-related problems and disease
  • Respiratory system-related problems and disease
  • Digestive problems and disease
  • Reproductive system-related problems
  • Diabetes
  • Pain

A PTSD treatment center uses a variety of tools to ensure better healing. Many of those ways are with psychotherapy. Other means include holistic treatment and medication. Each person gets an individual tailored approach to their treatment because every person’s PTSD stems from different trauma with unique symptoms. If you or a person you love has difficulties with post-traumatic stress disorder, reach out to us so we can help.