What It Feels Like to Learn You Have PTSD

June 11, 2020 Beth Avery

Learning that I had posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was the first important step in my trauma recovery. Symptoms of PTSD typically start within three months of a traumatic event but in some cases, there can be a delay. Because of PTSD stigma, people often dismiss symptoms of the disorder until it is no longer possible to ignore them.

In my own case, it took a while for me to realize I had PTSD and even longer to fully accept the diagnosis. However, learning I have PTSD has allowed me to seek the treatment I need to heal.

How I Learned I Had PTSD

I first started experiencing symptoms of PTSD when I was 16. Seemingly out of the blue, I developed nightmares, depression, panic attacks, and hypervigilance during my junior year in high school. My family had very little knowledge about mental health, so I didn't understand what was happening to me. I thought I was losing my mind.

When I was 18, I came across an article about PTSD symptoms, and--realizing I was able to check each of them off the list--my world turned upside down. All the stress and confusing mental health issues I had been experiencing for the past couple of years suddenly made sense. I wasn't crazy; rather, I was suffering from a mental health disorder.

How It Feels to Get a PTSD Diagnosis

The first therapist I saw confirmed my suspicion that I was suffering from PTSD. I was relieved to have a licensed professional validate what I had been experiencing, but I was also scared. I didn't want to have PTSD. I knew plenty of college students struggling with depression or anxiety, but I had never met anyone else with PTSD. I didn't know how to fix myself, and I didn't understand why this was happening to me. 

Over time, my PTSD diagnosis became less terrifying. Little by little, I learned how to manage the symptoms of PTSD that were present in my everyday life. With the help of counseling and the support of friends, I was able to keep chasing my goals and dreams despite having the disorder. 

Posttraumatic stress disorder is a serious mental illness, but it is possible to manage it. Learning that you have PTSD can feel very frightening, but it is the first step towards healing. Once you are able to recognize the symptoms of PTSD, you can seek out treatment options that will help reduce the control it has over your life. PTSD recovery is a tough road, but it is one that many traumatized people are walking with you. 

APA Reference
Avery, B. (2020, June 11). What It Feels Like to Learn You Have PTSD, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Author: Beth Avery

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Carol Moger
June, 17 2020 at 11:16 am

excellent article. I was actually 68 before I realized I had ptsd. My therapist said I had the complex kind. Before, I had gone through probably 25 episodes of severe recurrent major depression in which I could physically feel the chemical changes taking place in my body. I had even been bx with ddnos and no one had considered ptsd. I had to go on disability because of the dissociation which did not quite meet the criteria of did. Learning my dx of post traumatic stress disorder has been on of the most validating disorders that I have ever had. It was a great big time of proving that this mess wasn't my fault. I wasn't defective. And yes, many things had happened to me that were not ok. Things no one were talk about or believe, by my brother and both parents. My parents died in 1975 and 1977. My brother died March 31, 2019. Not one person in my extended family was kind enough to let me know. A friend did as his death was announced in the local paper on the day he was being buried. That day ended my family. I tell myself, "that day ended future episodes of prst!"

June, 29 2020 at 9:59 pm

Thanks for sharing, Carol. I can definitely relate. Getting a PTSD diagnosis cleared up so much confusion for me. Sending lots of love your way!

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