PTSD is a debilitating disorder that can affect a person’s everyday life. Learn what is is like to live with PTSD and the steps people can take to cope with the disorder.

When someone experiences a traumatic event, it may cause them to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) later on in life. Living with PTSD can be debilitating and may affect a person’s ability to function healthily in their everyday life. They may feel alone and helpless. However, PTSD is a common anxiety disorder and there are multiple treatment options to help someone address the disorder and recover from the traumatic event.

What is it like living with PTSD? The answer to this question varies depending on the type of trauma a person experienced or witnessed. There are similarities in symptoms and the ways that PTSD presents itself. In all cases, having a support system to lean on will greatly improve a person’s chance at recovery.

What Does PTSD Feel Like?

How PTSD affects someone varies from person to person and depends on the type of trauma they experienced. In general, people diagnosed with PTSD will experience symptoms within one month from the traumatic event. Occasionally, the onset of symptoms can be delayed by up to three months following the traumatic event.

Many people will experience PTSD nightmares, where they dream about the traumatic event they experienced. In these dreams, people may feel like they are reliving the event and experiencing the emotions or physical pain that was associated with it. Reliving the events can also occur when a person is awake, in flashbacks that feel like the person is experiencing the event all over again. Flashbacks can be debilitating, making it hard for the person to concentrate or accomplish simple tasks.

Other PTSD symptoms include:

  • Troubling memories
  • Vivid flashbacks
  • Consistent negative mood
  • Being easily startled
  • Avoiding reminders of the trauma
  • Feeling depressed
  • Blaming oneself for the event
  • Having problems concentrating or sleeping
  • Feeling irritable or easily agitated
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Feeling detached from others

How Does PTSD Affect Daily Life?

PTSD can greatly affect a person’s everyday life, making it hard for them to function as they usually would. When the effects of PTSD are so severe that a person regularly has panic attacks, it can have an effect on their career. When someone is afraid of going outside or driving a car due to their PTSD, it makes it hard for them to get to work or do simple tasks like grocery shop. As a result, they may lose their job or develop additional, serious mental health issues.

When someone becomes isolated as a result of their PTSD, it can also wear on their personal relationships with others. They may feel as though those around them cannot relate to what they are going through. They may also have issues with trust or intimacy, which can make it hard to maintain relationships.

Can You Live a Healthy Life with PTSD?

Yes, living a healthy life with PTSD is possible. A person struggling with PTSD should seek out a treatment plan that will work for them to get them on track to managing their PTSD. For some people, the disorder will never completely go away, but there are skills they can learn to make sure that the anxiety associated with their PTSD does not control their life.

Tips for Coping with PTSD

When PTSD is controlling a person’s life and they are unable to function healthily, the best step they can take is seeking professional help. A trained professional will help the person get the treatment they need to overcome the anxiety of their specific situation. Treatment for PTSD will typically involve therapy and, in some cases, medication to cope with anxiety.

In addition to getting professional treatment, there are several additional steps a person can take on their own to help cope with the symptoms of PTSD. Some tips for coping with PTSD include:

  • Make time for self-care: Self-care can be eating healthy, getting enough sleep or making time to do activities that you enjoy.
  • Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness is when a person focuses on the present, including how they are feeling, how they are breathing and what is in their surroundings. Yoga and meditation are good ways to practice mindfulness.
  • Engage in physical activity: Physical activity can reduce the severity of symptoms associated with PTSD.
  • Develop a support group: Having friends and family that are understanding of your disorder and will check on you, even when you are avoiding them, will help you through your recovery.
  • Consider getting a therapy dog: Studies have shown that therapy dogs can help people with PTSD relax and reduce the stress and anxiety they feel about the traumatic event.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol: Drugs and alcohol can make the symptoms of PTSD worse.

If you or a loved one developed a substance use disorder while attempting to self-medicate symptoms of PTSD, contact The Recovery Village to speak with a representative about how professional addiction treatment can help. The Recovery Village’s individualized treatment programs ensure that each person can address their substance use disorder along with any co-occurring mental health disorders. Take the first step toward a healthier future, call today.

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Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of content experience, Tom produces and edits research articles, news and blog posts produced for Advanced Recovery Systems. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Trisha Sippel, PhD
Dr. Sippel is a diversely trained scientist with expertise in cancer biology and immunology. Read more

National Institute of Mental Health. “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” May 2019. Accessed September 23, 2019.

National Alliance of Mental Illness. “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder – Treatment.” December 2017. Accessed September 23, 2019.

Fetzner, MG.; Asmundson, GJ. “Aerobic Exercise Reduces Symptoms of Pos[…]ed Controlled Trial.” Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, June 9, 2014. Accessed September 23, 2019.


Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.