What Does PTSD Feel Like?

PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a mental health condition where the body and brain are unable to recover after experiencing or witnessing something traumatic. It is normal to have difficulty coping with something traumatic, so it may be hard to tell the difference between normal coping and more serious PTSD.

What does PTSD feel like?


Flashbacks are intrusive thoughts that make you feel like you are reliving the traumatic experience that led to your PTSD. Flashbacks are often triggered by things like noises, sights, smells, etc. that remind you of the event, but sometimes can come out of nowhere.

PTSD flashback symptoms include the following:

Seeing images or visions of what happened in the initial event
Feeling sensations or pain, often when there is nothing actually hurting you
Reliving the emotions of the original event (often fear or distress)
Increased heart rate
Panic attacks
Difficulty breathing


With hypervigilance, you never truly feel relaxed and are always on edge. You may seem jumpy or irritable.

Hypervigilance symptoms include the following:
Being easily startled
Irregular sleeping patterns
Trouble concentrating


PTSD will make a person want to avoid anything that reminds them of the traumatic event in the hopes that they can avoid flashbacks or other symptoms.

Symptoms of avoidance include the following:

Avoiding places, people, or things
Substance abuse
Feelings of detachment or dissociation

Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are sudden onsets of symptoms of fear and stress, accompanied by the following physical symptoms:

Heart palpitations
Trouble breathing
Tingling hands


Similar to flashbacks, PTSD often brings on terrifying nightmares. This leads to many people with PTSD avoiding sleep in fear of these dreams.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors that contribute to the development of PTSD may include the following:

Stressful experiences and traumatic events
Family history of PTSD or other mental health conditions
History of abuse (especially childhood abuse)
Substance abuse
Personal history of depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions
Personality and temperament
The way your brain responds to stress.

Treatment for PTSD

PTSD can be an incredibly debilitating condition that makes it near impossible to carry out everyday activities. Fortunately, treatments both old and new may help you along your road to recovery. For decades, doctors have prescribed trusted treatments like antidepressants or psychotherapy, but innovative new options like ketamine may signal an optimistic new era of PTSD treatment.

Ketamine for PTSD

Ketamine was first approved by the FDA for use as an anesthetic, but in recent years has been shown to be a powerful, rapid-acting treatment for mood disorders like PTSD. Research speculates that ketamine plays a role in the treatment of mood disorders through its interaction with the neurotransmitter known as glutamate. Glutamate is a powerful neurotransmitter that mediates the body’s response to stress and traumatic memories.

To learn more about ketamine and its use as PTSD treatment, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

What are the Symptom of PTSD?

What are the Symptoms of PTSD?

The American Psychiatric Association defines Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as:

“…a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault.

“PTSD has been known by many names in the past, such as “shell shock” during the years of World War I and “combat fatigue” after World War II. But PTSD does not just happen to combat veterans. PTSD can occur in all people, in people of any ethnicity, nationality or culture, and any age. PTSD affects approximately 3.5 percent of U.S. adults, and an estimated one in 11 people will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime. Women are twice as likely as men to have PTSD.”

What the American Psychiatric Association Classifies as Symptoms

In 2013, the PTSD diagnostic criteria of the American Psychiatric Association underwent revision in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). PTSD is now included in a new category, Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders. “All the conditions included in this classification require exposure to a traumatic or stressful event as a diagnostic criterion.” The previous edition, DSM-4, cited 17 PTSD symptoms, but the revised edition has expanded the list. A combination of the symptoms listed below are required for diagnosis, but it’s rare for anyone to have them all.

Criterion A: stressor (one required)

The person was exposed to: death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence, in the following way(s):

  • Direct exposure
  • Witnessing the trauma
  • Learning that a relative or close friend was exposed to a trauma
  • Indirect exposure to aversive details of the trauma, usually in the course of professional duties (e.g., first responders, medics)

Criterion B: intrusion symptoms (one required)

The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in the following way(s):

  • Unwanted upsetting memories
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Emotional distress after exposure to traumatic reminders
  • Physical reactivity after exposure to traumatic reminders

Criterion C: avoidance (one required)

Avoidance of trauma-related stimuli after the trauma, in the following way(s):

  • Trauma-related thoughts or feelings
  • Trauma-related external reminders

Criterion D: negative alterations in cognitions and mood (two required)

Negative thoughts or feelings that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way(s):

  • Inability to recall key features of the trauma
  • Overly negative thoughts and assumptions about oneself or the world
  • Exaggerated blame of self or others for causing the trauma
  • Negative affect
  • Decreased interest in activities
  • Feeling isolated
  • Difficulty experiencing positive affect

Criterion E: alterations in arousal and reactivity

Trauma-related arousal and reactivity that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way(s):

  • Irritability or aggression
  • Risky or destructive behavior
  • Hypervigilance
  • Heightened startle reaction
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping

Criterion F: duration (required)

  • Symptoms last for more than 1 month.

Criterion G: functional significance (required)

  • Symptoms create distress or functional impairment (e.g., social, occupational).

Criterion H: exclusion (required)

  • Symptoms are not due to medication, substance use, or other illness.

Risk Factors

Someone who’s experienced events that are shocking, dangerous, or scary (a soldier in combat, or a first responder during the twin tower attacks in New York), may be suffering from symptoms of PTSD. Not everyone who survives a life-altering event will experience PTSD, but those who do may have been exposed to these risk factors described by the National Institute of Mental Health:

  • Surviving Living through perilous traumas and events.
  • Emotional or physical injuries.
  • Being present when someone has been seriously injured or killed
  • Is a survivor of childhood trauma.
  • Experiences feelings of helplessness, horror, or intense fear based on a prior event.
  • Absence or lack of availability of social support after the trauma.
  • Extreme stress, like dealing with pain and injury, the loss of a loved one or losing a home or job.
  • A history of substance abuse or mental illness not directly related to the event.

Getting Help

Do you think you have PTSD? If you can talk to someone you trust and they agree, it may be time to get help. You’ve taken an important step in – validating your experiences with PTSD symptoms and the need for medical attention. After talking to a doctor, you’ll choose a treatment plan which might include medications like ketamine.

According to the American Pharmacist Association, veterans suffering from PTSD used ketamine in trials through the U.S. Veterans Affairs. Tobias Marton, in charge of the infusion program, called the results “impressive.”

Ketamine infusion therapy is an innovative new treatment option that is providing rapid relief for patients who are battling this condition. If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD we would like to invite you to give us a call today to learn more about Ketamine.


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