PTSD Symptoms: Could you have PTSD without knowing it?

When the subject of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) comes up, most people think of soldiers who have been to war. While this type of trauma can definitely cause PTSD, it’s not the only way you can develop the mental illness. You can develop PTSD after any very stressful, distressing, or frightening event, or following a prolonged traumatic experience.

Symptoms may appear shortly after the traumatic event or they may take months or even years to become apparent. Because of this, you could be experiencing PTSD without even knowing it

PTSD symptoms

There are four main types of PTSD symptoms: avoidance, intrusive memories, negative changes in thoughts and moods, and changes in emotional and physical reactions. Symptoms can come and go over time and can also vary between individuals. If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may have PTSD.


  • Not wanting to think or talk about the traumatic event
  • Avoiding activities, places, and people that remind you of the event

Intrusive memories

  • Experiencing flashbacks of the traumatic event
  • Having unwanted, recurrent, and distressing memories of the event
  • Nightmares or upsetting dreams about the event
  • Severe physical reactions and emotional distress when presented with something that reminds you of the vent

Negative changes in thoughts and moods

  • Feeling hopeless about the future
  • Having negative thoughts about yourself and others
  • Problems maintaining close relationships
  • Difficulties remembering parts of the traumatic event
  • Feelings of detachment from friends and family
  • Issues experiencing positive emotions
  • Not enjoying things you once did
  • Feeling emotionally numb

Changes in emotional and physical reactions

  • Constantly being on guard for danger
  • Being easily frightened or startled
  • Difficulties sleeping
  • Self-destructive behavior (driving too fast or drinking too much)
  • Problems concentrating
  • Overwhelming feelings of shame or guilt
  • Aggressive behavior, angry outbursts, or irritability

Trauma focused therapy >>

Causes of PTSD

Any severely distressing or traumatic event can cause PTSD, whether it occurred one week ago or one decade ago during childhood. But just because you experience something traumatic doesn’t automatically mean you’ll develop PTSD.

Only 1 in 3 people who go through something extremely traumatic go on to have PTSD. We don’t fully understand why some people develop PTSD and others don’t. But there are certain factors that make it more likely you’ll develop PTSD. These include if you’ve had anxiety or depression before, if you don’t have much support from friends or family, or if you have a parent with mental health issues.

Here are some common causes of PTSD:

  • Being involved in a serious accident, such as a car crash
  • Being sexually assaulted or raped
  • Being bullied, abused, or harassed — this includes sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, biophobia, and every other kind of abuse that targets your identity
  • Domestic violence, whether physical or emotional
  • Witnessing other people being killed or severely hurt
  • Experiencing violence, including a terrorist attack, military combat, or any violent assault
  • Working a job in which you repeatedly experience distressing things, such as working in the armed forces or the emergency services
  • Experiencing a miscarriage, stillbirth, or traumatic birth
  • Being the partner of someone who has gone through a miscarriage, stillbirth, or traumatic birth
  • Surviving a natural disaster, including earthquakes, flooding, or a pandemic, such as COVID-19
  • Losing someone close to you, particularly if it was under upsetting circumstances
  • Being diagnosed with a chronic-disabling or a terminal or life-threatening illness

PSTD treatment

PTSD isn’t something you have to live with for the rest of your life. There are several different types of psychotherapy (talk therapy) that can help you better manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Here are some of the most effective ways of treating PTSD:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT involves talking about your symptoms and trauma with your therapist so they can help you develop more effective behavioral and thought patterns.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy: This type of interactive therapy involves recalling the traumatic event while moving your eyes from side to side so you can process the event without experiencing the strong emotions you attach to the memory.
  • Exposure Therapy: Exposure therapy involves discussing your trauma in a safe space with your therapist so they can help you work through it and process your experience.

PTSD counseling near you >>

Get in touch

If you think you may have PTSD or any other mental health condition and need someone to talk to, we’re here for you. Make an appointment with a Cyti therapist today and you’ll receive the support you need. We have many PTSD therapists who are specially trained to help people with PTSD, as well as a host of other problems. You don’t have to go through this alone. Our therapists are waiting to help.

About the author: Dr. Rahamany

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. If you are in a crisis or any other person may be in danger,  these resources can provide you with immediate help:
Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 988
24 Hour Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1.800.273.8255
Crisis Text Line Text TALK to 741741