Tag Archives: Ptsd Symptoms

PTSD Symptom Categories

PTSD symptom categories

Those of us who experienced high levels of stress as children are at increased risk of developing PTSD, sometimes referred to as complex post traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD), as adults.

Whilst it is imperative that a diagnosis for PTSD does NOT derive from self-diagnosis but, instead, comes from a relevantly qualified professional (such as a psychiatrist), the symptoms I list below can give an idea of whether or not one may be suffering from it :

These can be split up into three main PTSD symptom categories as follows below:

1) Symptoms related to avoidance behavior

2) Symptoms related to re-living/ re-experiencing the traumatic events

3) Symptoms related to a person’s biology/physiology/level of physical arousal.

Let’s look at each of these three specific categories of possible PTSD symptoms in turn:

1) Symptoms related to avoidance behavior :

– avoidance of anything that triggers memories of the traumatic experiences, including people, events, and places

– avoiding people connected to the trauma, or avoiding people in general

– avoidance of talking about one’s traumatic experiences

– avoidance of intimacy (both physical and emotional)

2) Symptoms related re-living/ re-experiencing the traumatic events :

– nightmares

– distressing, intrusive, unwanted thoughts

– flashbacks

– obsessive and uncontrollable thinking about the trauma one has experienced, perhaps to the point that it is hard to think about, or concentrate on, anything else

– constant sense of fear, vulnerability, being under threat and of being in extreme imminent danger

– transient and spontaneous psychotic symptoms (eg visual hallucinations -such as ‘seeing’ past traumatic events happen again, or auditory hallucinations – such as ‘hearing’ sounds or voices connected to the original trauma

3) Symptoms relating to a person’s biology/physiology/level of physical arousal.

– hypervigilance (feeling ‘keyed up’, tense and constantly on guard)

– hyperventilation (rapid, shallow breathing)

– sweating

– shaking/trembling

– extreme irritability

– proneness to outbursts of rage that feel out of control and surface unpredictably

– getting into physical fights, especially if using alcohol to numb feelings of distress/fear

– an over-sensitive startle response

– feeling constantly ‘jittery’ and ‘on-edge’

– inability to relax

– insomnia/frequent waking/unrefreshing sleep

Miscellaneous Other Possible Symptoms:

– despair; feeling life is empty and meaningless; feeling numb and ‘dead inside’; anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure); inability to trust others; loss of motivation; loss of interest in previous hobbies/pursuits; loss of interest in sex; cynical and deeply pessimistic outlook; self-neglect; self-harm; thoughts of suicide/suicide attempts; extreme and chronic fatigue; agoraphobia and phobias related to the original trauma.

(NB : Whilst the above list of symptoms is extensive, it is not exhaustive).

Recommended link:

For more detailed help and advice regarding this serious condition, click here : Advice from MIND on PTSD.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)


Symptoms Of PTSD Most Prevalent According To Different Age Categories


We have seen in other articles that I have published on this site that severe childhood trauma can lead to us developing serious psychiatric conditions such as borderline personality disorder or BPD (click here to read one of my articles about this) and posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD (sometimes referred to as complex posttraumatic stress disorder, or CPTSD (click here to read my article about some psychologists distinguish between the two).


In order to be diagnosed with PTSD it is necessary that the individual has displayed the relevant symptoms for a month or more. Unfortunately, in the worst cases, the effects of childhood trauma can last far longer than a month. Indeed, it will sometimes occur that these negative effects last a lifetime unless appropriate therapy is undertaken (to read about available therapies and professional help please refer to the MAIN MENU at the top of this page).

Symptoms of PTSD/CPTSD differ depending upon the age of the person suffering from it. In this article, I want to focus upon how PTSD/CPTSD can express itself in three specific age groups of young people. These three groups are:

a) the under 5 year olds

b) children aged 5 to 12 years

c) teenagers

and I list typical symptoms each age group may experience below:

a) under 5- year -olds:

– SEPARATION ANXIETY : this manifests itself through the young child becoming excessively upset when separated from his/her primary carer or other individual with whom s/he has developed a strong emotional bond.

– ANXIOUS BEHAVIOUR IN GENERAL : this symptom refers to the young child frequently becoming excessively anxious/nervous/fretful. In some cases, the young child may start to show fear of people s/he was previously comfortable with.

– LOSS OF CURIOSITY/INTEREST : the young child may lose his/her sense of curiosity and lose interest in activities s/he once enjoyed such as playing with toys, going to park (indeed, in some cases the child may develop a marked reluctance even to leave the house).

– WITHDRAWAL/LACK OF RESPONSIVENESS: the young child may seem to withdraw into him/herself and become less responsive to external stimuli

– RE-ENACTMENT : sometimes the child will re-enact the trauma through play (eg with dolls etc) or through painting and drawing. This tends to mean that they have become mentally fixated upon the traumatic experience which may impair their ability to develop emotionally and socially

– REGRESSION : developmental problems may even include the young person regressing (click here to read my article about this), in terms of their behaviour and functioning, to an earlier stage of development. In other words, they may start to act as if they were significantly younger than their actual chronological age. For example, if they’d reached the age whereby they were feeding themselves, they may revert to wanting to be fed (demonstrating a sudden increase in their level of dependency).

– SIGNIFICANT DISRUPTION OF SLEEP : this may include the child frquently experiencing nightmares and night terrors

– NEW FEARS : the child may suddenly become fearful of people or situations s/he used to be comfortable with


b) 6 to 12 -year – olds


– PSYCHOSOMATIC ACHES AND PAINS : ie aches and pains caused by psychological factors such as stress rather than being caused by physical factors

– PROBLEMS AT SCHOOL : eg inattentiveness, lack of concentration and focus, rebellious and confrontational behaviour, getting into fights.


c) Teenagers :

– IRRATIONAL GUILT AND SELF-BLAME : it is extremely common for children to wrongly blame themselves for the traumatic events they have experienced (e.g. many children falsely believe themselves to be the cause of their parents’ divorce).

– FLASHBACKS : ie intrusive, intense and distressing memories of the traumatic events

– NIGHTMARES/NIGHT TERRORS and problems with sleep in general

– AVOIDANCE OF PLACES AND SITUATIONS in which they used to feel safe

– EMOTIONAL AND BEHAVIOURAL AGGRESSION: ie reversion to earlier stages of development in relation to their emotions and behaviour (eg by having toddler-like tantrums).

– USE OF DRUGS/ALCOHOL in an effort to numb their emotional pain (sometimes referred to as DISSOCIATING – click here to read my article on this)

– COMING INTO CONFLICT WITH THE LAW eg due to involvement with drugs, shoplifting, fighting/violence, fire starting

– DIFFICULTY CONTROLLING EMOTIONS resulting in , for example, increased impulsivity and hostility/aggression



– PROBLEMS AT SCHOOL – as above, but on a bigger/escalating scale

– SELF-ISOLATION/SOCIAL WITHDRAWAL and problems with interpersonal relationships in general, including difficulties forming and maintaining friendships/relationships

– INSECURITY which may manifest itself as extreme ‘ clinginess’ in any friendships / relationships that the teenager does manage to form. Click here to read my article about this.

– SEVERE MOOD SWINGS – significantly exceeding what one would expect from an ‘average’ teenager

– DEPRESSION – including loss of interest in, and loss of ability to gain pleasure from (sometimes known as ANHEDONIA – click here to read my article on this) activities that were previously enjoyed.


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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Complex PTSD


complex PTSD

Complex PTSD:

There has been some controversy regarding the difference between post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex PTSD amongst researchers.

During the early 1990s, the psychologist Judith Herman noted that individuals who had suffered severe, long-lasting, interpersonal trauma, ESPECIALLY IN EARLY LIFE, were frequently suffering from symptoms such as the following:

– disturbance in their view of themselves

– a marked propensity to seek out experiences and relationships which mirrored their original trauma

– severe difficulties controlling emotions and regulating moods

– identity problems/the loss of a coherent sense of self (click here to read my article on identity problems)

– a marked inability to develop trusting relationships

and, sometimes:

– adoption by the victim of the perpetrator’s belief system

Furthermore, some may go on to become abusers themselves, whilst others may be constantly compelled to seek out relationships with others who abuse them in a similar way to the original abuser (i.e. the parent or ‘care-taker’)

It is most unfortunate that, prior to the identification of the disorder that gives rise to the above symptoms, now referred to as complex PTSD, those suffering from the above symptoms were NOT recognized as having suffered from trauma and were therefore not asked about their childhood traumatic experiences during treatment. This meant, of course, that the chances of successful treatment were greatly reduced.

Research has now demonstrated that the effects of severe, long-lasting interpersonal trauma go above and beyond the symptoms caused by PTSD.

Complex PTSD Symptoms :

The main symptoms of complex PTSD are as follows:

1) severe dysregulation of mood

2) severe impulse control impairment

3) somatic (physical) symptoms (e.g. headaches, stomach aches, weakness/fatigue)

4) changes in self-perception (e.g. seeing self as deeply defective, ‘bad’ or even ‘evil’)

5) severe difficulties relating to others, including an inability to feel emotionally secure or empowered in relationships

6) changes in perception of the perpetrator of the abuse (e.g. rationalizing their abuse/idealization of perpetrator)

7) inability to see any meaning in life/existential confusion

8) inability to keep oneself calm under stress/inability to ‘self-sooth’

9) impaired self-awareness/fragmented sense of self

10) pathological dissociation (click here to read my article on DISSOCIATION)

The DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV) first named  complex PTSD as: DISORDER OF EXTREME STRESS NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED (DESNOS). Now, however, complex PTSD is listed as a SUB-CATEGORY of PTSD.

Whilst it is certainly true that there is an OVERLAP between the symptoms of PTSD and complex PTSD, many researchers now argue that PTSD and complex PTSD should be regarded as SEPARATE and DISTINCT disorders.

Above ebook now available from Amazon for immediate download. $ 3.49 Click here.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).