How to Know if You are Suffering from PTSD

PTSD symptoms, signs of PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, mental health professional, mental health disorders, mild traumatic brain injuries, neurofeedback therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, EMDR therapy,

Many of us are exposed to trauma during our lives, whether we experience it first-hand or witness a frightening event. Most people overcome the emotional upheaval and return to a sense of normalcy. But not everyone.

Some people who live through trauma—such as a natural disaster, car accident, physical assault, or mass shooting—develop symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Since our brains are wired to alarm us to the presence of danger, having a physical and psychological response to trauma is normal. But when the distressing feelings don’t diminish over time, it can lead to PTSD.

Approximately 1 in 30 U.S. adults suffer from this condition. When left untreated, PTSD can ruin lives and even lead to suicide. How can you tell if you’re experiencing normal emotional ups and downs versus PTSD? Here are the symptoms to look out for.

Since our brains are wired to alarm us to the presence of danger, having a physical and psychological response to trauma is normal. But when the distressing feelings don’t diminish over time, it can lead to PTSD. Click To Tweet


To determine if you have PTSD, you must have some of the following symptoms:

  • You have flashbacks or nightmares about the traumatic event
  • You can’t remember certain aspects of what happened
  • You avoid people, places, or things that remind you of the trauma
  • You refuse to talk about the traumatic event
  • You’re unable to discuss your feelings about the trauma
  • You have distressing memories
  • You have a sense of dissociation or a feeling that you’re removed from your mind or body
  • You can’t stop thinking about the event
  • Your anxiety levels have increased
  • You’re more fearful than before
  • You feel like you’re always on guard
  • You’re easily startled
  • You experience emotional numbness
  • You have feelings of shame, guilt, or self-blame regarding the trauma
  • You can’t sleep
  • You no longer care about activities you used to enjoy
  • You’re frequently angry or irritable
  • You feel depressed
  • You withdraw from family and friends

In people with PTSD, symptoms typically last more than one month and interfere with daily life. If you experience these signs of PTSD, it’s a good idea to seek professional help.

However, it’s important to understand that many of these symptoms overlap with other mental health disorders, such as clinical depression, anxiety disorders, and chronic stress. PTSD symptoms also mirror many of those seen in people with concussions and mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI).

Because of the similarities in symptoms, PTSD may be missed or misdiagnosed. Research shows that in the primary care setting, as many as 89%-98% of patients who have PTSD don’t have the diagnosis recorded in their medical records. And less than 50% of those with the condition don’t receive treatment for it.


For this reason, getting a functional brain scan with SPECT can be helpful in determining the root cause of your symptoms. SPECT measures blood flow and activity in the brain and reveals areas with healthy activity, too much activity, and too little activity.

Unfortunately, most doctors never look at the brain with imaging, so people with PTSD often go undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed and given the wrong kind of treatment.

Advanced brain-imaging technology provides an objective measure of PTSD, which leads to a more accurate diagnosis and more effective treatment.

On brain SPECT scans, PTSD is associated with overactivity in multiple areas of the brain. The neuropsychiatrists at Amen Clinics refer to this as the “diamond pattern.”

This heightened activity tends to keep the brain on overdrive, increasing anxiety and irritability. It also interferes with sleep.

SPECT Imaging of PTSD Before & After Treatment

SPECT Active View BEFORE Treatment:

SPECT Active View BEFORE Treatment

SPECT Active View AFTER Treatment:

SPECT Active View AFTER Treatment


In addition to helping diagnosis PTSD, SPECT scans show people with this condition that their symptoms and behaviors are biological, not mental. This helps eliminate the shame and guilt people feel and encourages healing.

As mentioned earlier, PTSD has many of the same symptoms seen in people with concussions and other mild traumatic brain injuries. Getting the right treatment is critical to the healing process.

In a groundbreaking brain-imaging study from Amen Clinics published in 2015 in Plos One, SPECT distinguished TBI from PTSD in at least 80% of cases. This study was recognized as one of the Top 100 science stories of 2015 by Discover Magazine.


If you are diagnosed with PTSD, there are many things you can do to help treat symptoms of PTSD.

  1. Learn from success stories.

Many PTSD sufferers have successfully minimized their symptoms and are enjoying their life again. Sometimes hearing how someone else lived through a traumatic event and came out stronger after struggling with PTSD can reduce feelings of hopelessness.

Their stories can reduce feelings of isolation and shame while offering reassurance and hope. To help you on this path to recovery, watch this first responder’s journey to PTSD healing. His touching story can help change your perspective about this condition, which affects an estimated 3.5% of American adults.

  1. Support your overall brain health.

It’s important to understand that having symptoms of PTSD is not a character flaw or a sign of personal weakness. Brain imaging at Amen Clinics with SPECT scans clearly shows that PTSD is a biological problem in the brain.

Supporting your brain with healthy habits, including good nutrition, exercise, supplements, and meditation can help.

  1. Use proven mental health therapies.

Scientific research shows that certain types of mental health treatment can reduce symptoms of PTSD and improve brain health. Three of the most effective treatments are:

  • Neurofeedback: Studies show that neurofeedback therapy significantly reduces PTSD symptoms. With this treatment therapy, people use biofeedback to learn how to self-regulate activity in the brain. In particular, individuals develop stronger emotional regulation and stress resilience.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): A wealth of research shows that CBT is an effective treatment for PTSD in individuals of all ages.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): According to a 2018 review of the existing scientific research, EMDR therapy is an effective treatment for reducing PTSD symptoms.

If you’re suffering from PTSD, healing is possible. Seeing a mental health professional who understands that this is a brain-based disorder is an important first step. With an accurate diagnosis, you can get a targeted treatment plan with therapies that can accelerate the healing process.

PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

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