Identifying PTSD Warning Signs

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects more than 8 million American adults each year. PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that causes anxiety in a person following a traumatic event they experienced or witnessed. While PTSD typically affects more women than men, it can affect anyone, and it affects everyone differently. Know what to look for – you never know when someone you know might be struggling.

Sleep Difficulties

Many people with PTSD have problems sleeping. This could include insomnia, trouble falling or staying asleep, and frequent and/or recurrent nightmares. Often, these dreams will be about the trauma or elements involved in the trauma.


A lot of the time, people with PTSD will go out of their way to avoid certain people, places, or activities that remind them of their trauma. For example, someone who survived a car accident may decide to stop driving.

Hypervigilance and Hypersensitivity

Hypervigilance and hypersensitivity are incredibly common in survivors of physical violence or combat. Often, people with hypervigilance as a symptom of PTSD will choose to sit with their back to a wall as to see everything that’s going on in front of them. This typically stems from a fear of people attacking them from behind. People may also become anxious or agitated when seemingly normal interactions remind them of their triggers. For example, a survivor of domestic violence may become agitated or fearful if touched, even gently as to grab their attention.

Mood Swings

After a major trauma, it may be hard to regulate emotions. The person may become angry, aggressive, sad, or otherwise emotional after minor inconveniences or seemingly normal issues. This could be in part to having experienced a PTSD trigger, or simply having a heightened emotional state from the constant stress.

Memory Problems

It is not uncommon for the brain to block out the memory of a traumatic event. However, those living with PTSD may also have trouble remembering experiences, most often minor details, while coping with their recent trauma. This could be attributed to other symptoms (insomnia, distractedness, hypervigilance, etc.) or the brain’s way of coping with recent trauma.

PTSD is generally underreported. Many times, the trauma people experienced are tough to disclose (domestic violence, gun violence, sexual assault, combat, etc.) causing survivors to feel uncomfortable discussing their PTSD. If you think your loved one may be living with PTSD, make sure to be sensitive to their feelings and don’t push too hard, but make sure to let them know you are there for them.

If you or a loved one are living with PTSD, consider joining a clinical trial with Preferred Research Partners.