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Emotional Trauma Signs and Symptoms

People who experience a trauma-related mental health condition can exhibit many different short- and long-term symptoms. These symptoms vary based on age, in addition to the type of traumatic event the patient experienced, and can include:

Anxiety, Agitation and Fear

Those who have endured a traumatic event may become more anxious, be easily frightened, be hypervigilant of danger, have trouble concentrating, and more.

Depression and Suicidal Ideation

Negative thinking about the future and about the self, as well as feeling emotionally numb can take place after a traumatic event or events. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, get help right away by reaching out to a loved one, contacting a doctor, or calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifelife at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

Substance Use

Sufferers of emotional trauma may begin using substances they wouldn’t have used prior to the triggering events or events as a form of self-destructive behavior.

Intrusive Thoughts and Memories

People who have experienced emotional trauma can have recurrent, unwanted and distressing memories of the event that happened to them. Sometimes they will also have flashbacks, as well as upsetting dreams of nightmares.

Trouble Sleeping

As a result of experiencing intrusive memories, dreams or nightmares, some people have experienced anxiety around sleeping and insomnia.

PTSD Signs and Symptoms

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a trauma-related mental health condition that develops over time — perhaps as little as one month, or as long as 12 years — triggered by an event. It’s characterized by feeling something bad is going to happen or that something is wrong all the time.[1]


Primary PTSD Symptoms

People who are experiencing PTSD may have a hard time engaging in day-to-day life. Seeking treatment is an important way to reduce symptoms and improve the ability to function.

Intrusive thoughts or memories

Thoughts relating to the event or flashbacks of the event may become persistent. Severe emotional reactions may accompany the memory or be the trigger that brings the memory back into focus.


Avoidance can come in several forms, but will involve avoiding the memory or discussing the event. It can also involve avoiding people, places or things that can remind a person of the traumatic event.

Changes in thinking and emotions

Notable symptoms include a diminished view of the future, feeling detached from friends and family, lack of interest in previous interests, disassociation, depersonalization, feeling frightened, and overwhelming feelings of guilt or shame.

PTSD Signs in Children and Adolescents

When a child experiences extreme stress from injury, the death of a friend or family member or experiences violence, they can experience long-term symptoms of trauma. To help identify post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a child or adolescent, look for:

Display “oppositional” behavior

Children with PTSD can experience angry outbursts, become irritated easily, and become very upset when memories of the event are triggered. They may also relive or re-enact their trauma while playing. They can seem fidgety or restless, which may be confused with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. [2] They may also abuse drugs or alcohol, practice self-harm, or act out sexually.


Dissociate, feel numb or unreal

In an attempt to avoid their trauma, kids may overly focus on video games or online activities, avoid places or people associated with the event, deny that anything happened, and become listless, helpless and withdrawn.

It’s never too late to get help following a trauma

If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of an emotional trauma disorder, we want you to know that there is hope. You are not alone, and we are here to offer resources and treatment options that can help you find lasting healing.

Learn more about Pathlight Mood and Anxiety Center’s treatment programs.

Emotional Trauma FAQ

  • What is emotional trauma?

    Emotional trauma can occur during a traumatic event, but its effects can continue for a long time after one has experienced trauma. These emotions can include sadness, anger, fear, shame and stress, all of which can feel overwhelming.

  • How are trauma disorders treated?

    Trauma disorders are typically treated with a combination of psychotherapy, counseling and sometimes medication. Specific modalities for managing trauma include Cognitive processing therapy (CPT), which is used to help people recover from post-traumatic stress disorder and related conditions.

  • Do I have a trauma disorder?

    Trauma disorders should be discussed and diagnosed by a clinician, but there are specific signs and symptoms that are frequently present. Take our trauma quiz if you think you may be struggling with a trauma-related condition.