PTSD Causes, Symptoms & Signs

Erlanger Behavioral Health Hospital offers high-quality services and support for adults and senior adults who are struggling with PTSD. Located in Chattanooga, TN, Erlanger is a leading provider of PTSD treatment.

Understanding PTSD

Learn about PTSD

Posttraumatic stress disorder, more commonly known as PTSD, is a mental health disorder that occurs in the aftermath of one or more particularly troubling experiences. Examples of events that can precede the onset of PTSD include military combat, acts of terrorism, physical attacks, sexual assault, automobile accidents, and natural disasters.

PTSD goes beyond temporary negative thoughts and feelings that commonly occur after a person has endured a traumatic event. For people who develop PTSD, the mental and emotional pain persists and intensifies to the point that their ability to function in a healthy and productive manner is impaired.

It is difficult to overstate the negative impact that untreated PTSD symptoms can have on a person’s life. However, when an individual who is struggling with PTSD receives treatment, their life can get much better. With the right help, you can experience relief from the effects of PTSD, learn to manage your symptoms, and pursue a healthier and more hopeful future.


Statistics about PTSD

The following statistics about trauma and PTSD were collected by the National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and the National Center for PTSD:

Causes & Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for PTSD

Your risk for developing PTSD after living through a traumatic event can be influenced by a variety of factors, such as the following:

  • Having certain mental health disorders (such as depression and anxiety)
  • Experiencing significant stress or multiple traumas
  • Possessing inappropriate coping abilities
  • Being female

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms of PTSD

Not every individual who suffers from PTSD will experience all of the symptoms listed below. However, in general, these are among the more common signs and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. These symptoms can also be experienced at varying levels, from mild to extreme.

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Physical and verbal aggression
  • Substance abuse
  • Avoiding situations, events, or people that might remind one of the trauma experienced

Physical symptoms:

  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Being jittery or “on edge”

Mental symptoms:

  • Hypervigilance (a state of elevated alertness)
  • Inability to concentrate or focus
  • A feeling that nowhere is safe, a consistent feeling of being in danger
  • A reliving of the traumatic event through flashbacks or nightmares
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Sharp mood swings
  • Dissociation (the sensation that you are detached from your environment)
  • Depression
  • Anger/rage


Effects of PTSD

Untreated posttraumatic stress disorder can put you at risk for a variety of negative outcomes, including the following:

  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Onset or worsening of other mental health symptoms
  • Problems in school or at work
  • Academic failure
  • Job loss and unemployment
  • Financial instability
  • Strained or ruined relationships
  • Legal problems due to reckless or violent behaviors
  • Physical injury due to reckless or violent behaviors
  • Withdrawal and isolation
  • Homelessness
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors

Your risk for negative effects such as the ones listed above can be minimized when you choose to get professional help for PTSD. While you’re receiving care, you can begin to heal from past harm. With the right type and level of services, you can overcome the effects of PTSD and once again live a healthier and more satisfying life.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Common co-occurring disorders among people who have PTSD

If you struggle with PTSD, you may also be at increased risk for certain other co-occurring mental health conditions, including the following:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Substance use disorders (the clinical term for addiction)
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Major neurocognitive disorder
Marks of Quality Care
  • The Joint Commission (JCAHO) Gold Seal of Approval