Combat PTSD Symptoms – Re-Experiencing

August 13, 2014 Harry Croft, M.D.

The symptoms of combat posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) fall into four categories:

  1. Re-experiencing
  2. Avoidance
  3. Negative changes in beliefs and feelings
  4. Hyperarousal (feeling "keyed up")

Today I want to talk about the first one: re-experiencing.

What is Re-Experiencing?

Re-experiencing, or reliving, a traumatic event is one symptom of combat PTSD. Learn more about re-experiencing and combat PTSD here.Re-experiencing symptoms are PTSD symptoms that involve reliving the traumatic event. Re-experiencing is more than just remembering – it is an actual feeling that you are going through the event again, with all the horror and trauma that you felt the first time. Re-experiencing pulls you out of your current reality and puts you back into your traumatic past. Re-experiencing can cause both psychical and psychological effects such as shortness of breath, increase in heart rate, fear of death and helplessness.

You can re-experience the trauma when you’re asleep in the form of nightmares or when you’re awake in the form of flashbacks. Flashbacks can take a person back to the exact moment of the trauma and this can feel extremely real.

What Causes Re-Experiencing Symptoms?

Re-experiencing symptoms can be brought about at random or can be caused by something known as a trigger. A trigger can be input from any sense (sight, sound, smell, etc.) that reminds the individual of the trauma. A trigger might be viewing a news report, seeing an accident, hearing a car backfire or hearing the sound of a helicopter overhead. Triggers are individual to the person and can be extremely powerful. People tend to avoid triggers whenever possible.

What Should You Do If You Have Re-Experiencing Symptoms?

Having re-experiencing symptoms alone does not warrant a diagnosis of PTSD as it’s only one of the four components mentioned above. Nevertheless, if the feelings of re-experiencing have lasted longer than three months, cause you great distress or interrupt your life at work or at home, you should see a professional, perhaps through a Vet Center, for a thorough combat PTSD assessment.

Keep in mind, the symptoms of combat PTSD usually start soon after a trauma but can start many months or years later as well so even if your trauma is well into the past, it can still cause problems and still require treatment.

You can also connect with Dr. Harry Croft on his website, Google+, Facebook,Linkedin and Twitter.

APA Reference
Croft, H. (2014, August 13). Combat PTSD Symptoms – Re-Experiencing, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, May 16 from

Author: Harry Croft, M.D.

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