Recognizing PTSD Symptoms

Recognizing PTSD Symptoms

Veterans who have experienced a traumatic event such as sexual assault or the death of a fellow service member in-service may suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, PTSD oftentimes goes undiagnosed until many years later. Sometimes sufferers aren’t aware of their condition until others notice changes in mood and behavior.

This delay in diagnosis can create problems. Several sufferers have had multiple jobs only to lose them due to an inability to adapt to a work environment.

The Symptoms of PTSD

According to the DSM-5, Posttraumatic stress disorder is a mental health disorder that can occur after witnessing, experiencing, or hearing about a traumatic event. Veterans can develop PTSD as a result of their time in the military, if they spend time in or around combat. PTSD can also develop in the aftermath of a violent action.

PTSD is different for every Veteran who experiences it. Because of this, acquiring disability benefits for your PTSD can be difficult without the full understanding of the potential range of symptoms you may feel, see, or experience.

Some of the most common PTSD symptoms include:

  • Anxiety and/or depression and related symptoms
  • Nightmares and trouble sleeping
  • Agitation
  • Numbing of emotions
  • Angry outbursts and increased reactivity
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleep problems
  • Flashbacks and re-experiencing – these can be a visceral and very real feeling
  • Difficulty sharing emotions
  • Hyperarousal
  • Higher risk of substance abuse
  • Difficulty maintaining interests that the Veteran had before developing PTSD

Passive vs. Permanent PTSD Symptoms

PTSD symptoms can be considered passive or permanent. They may occur sporadically or randomly, or they may impact your life in a general, consistent way.

For example, if you have PTSD and have difficulty sleeping, you may experience difficulty sleeping every night regardless of how your day progressed.

Other PTSD symptoms occur or are noticeable due to triggers. For instance, if you have PTSD regarding an incident in combat, a loud noise or the sound of an aircraft may trigger PTSD symptoms, such as anxiety, agitation, or a flashback to the traumatic event in question.

Understanding what your PTSD triggers are and how best to avoid them is one of the most important ways to manage your PTSD in the long term.

Note that you can have both passive and triggerable PTSD symptoms, not just one or the other. You may also notice that PTSD symptoms develop later down the road but are still caused or aggravated by the same root incident or stressor.

While the above symptoms of PTSD are the most common, your PTSD may manifest in different ways. Furthermore, your PTSD symptoms may not manifest immediately. Symptoms for PTSD can be dormant or nonexistent for a very extended period of time, then be triggered by a stressor event several years later, oftentimes without warning.

Again, this can make it difficult to acquire benefits for your PTSD symptoms. To get disability benefits from the US Department of Veterans Affairs, you must draw a link between your service in the military and your PTSD. Knowledgeable Veterans law attorneys can help you acquire a service connection for your PTSD and get the benefits you deserve for your service to our country.

Addressing PTSD Symptoms

PTSD is a mental illness and will not just go away. For the condition to improve, it must first be addressed with the help of a mental health professional.

Therefore, it is important to recognize the mental and physical symptoms and determine if you have any of them. According to Mayo Clinic, PTSD is commonly grouped into four different categories: 1) Intrusive memories, 2) avoidance, 3) negative changes in thinking and mood, and 4) changes in physical and emotional reactions.

Symptoms of intrusive memories may include:

  • Recurring, unwanted, and distressing memories of the traumatic event;
  • Flashbacks of the traumatic event;
  • Dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event; and
  • Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the traumatic event.

Symptoms of avoidance may include:

  • Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event and
  • Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event.

Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may include:

  • Negative thoughts;
  • Hopelessness;
  • Memory problems, including being unable to remember important aspects of the traumatic event or having difficulties with short- and long-term memory;
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships;
  • Isolation from family and friends;
  • No longer being interested in activities you once enjoyed;
  • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions, and
  • Feeling emotionally numb.

Symptoms of changes in physical and emotional reactions (also called arousal symptoms) may include:

  • Being easily startled or frightened;
  • Always being on guard for danger (hypervigilance);
  • Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much, driving too fast, or getting in fights;
  • Difficulty sleeping;
  • Development of new phobias
  • Difficulty concentrating on daily life.
  • Irritability or unprovoked anger (getting angry for no reason or for strange reasons); and
  • Feeling intense guilt or shame.

Veterans with “passive” suicidal ideation may think about death or have suicidal thoughts because of the mental anguish and suffering they endure. Notably, suicidal ideation does not require a suicide attempt.

Another symptom of PTSD is obsessional rituals that interfere with routine activities. This may manifest in Veterans when they check the locks on their doors several times a day to make sure they are secure. They may also look out the windows several times a day or avoid standing by the windows in their home. They may also walk the perimeter of their residence to ensure it is secure.

For many Veterans with PTSD, treatment options start with cognitive behavioral therapy or other forms of psychotherapy. In addition, Veterans who deal with PTSD may also attend support groups as part of PTSD treatment. In addition, they may take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or other antidepressants to make their symptoms more manageable.

While this is not a complete list of all PTSD symptoms, it offers quite a few examples that may be able to help Veterans determine whether they have PTSD or another mental disorder. Veterans who incur a serious mental health condition during military service are entitled to VA disability benefits, but they must apply for them first.

Long-Term Consequences of PTSD

PTSD is often caused or aggravated by a life-threatening event like a car accident or natural disaster that happens over a short period of time. However, the effects of this traumatic experience can cause or aggravate long-lasting physical and mental health problems. In the long term, PTSD may lead to the development of negative habits related to substance abuse or difficulty forming relationships. For example, Veterans with PTSD may find it very difficult to start a new job, move to a new city, or maintain healthy relationships.

Because PTSD’s symptoms can vary so heavily, many Veterans don’t realize that they are under the effects of this psychological condition until they until they experience the negative impacts in their daily lives.

No matter what your PTSD symptoms may be, you are entitled to disability benefits for your condition. These benefits can help you acquire the medical or psychiatric help you need to lead a full, healthy life, as well as work through your PTSD symptoms or triggers.

Veterans Serving Veterans

Berry Law was founded by Vietnam War Veteran and legendary trial lawyer John Stevens Berry Sr. We are proud to have many military Veterans among our attorneys and staff who understand what it means to serve and know firsthand the struggles many of our clients face every day.

If you need to appeal a VA decision for PTSD, Berry Law may be able to help. We have been successfully representing Veterans for decades. Contact us today for a free evaluation.


What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? |

NIMH » Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder | National Institutes of Health (

What Are PTSD Triggers? | Web MD

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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