Home » Mental Health Conditions » PTSD » What Are the 5 Stages of PTSD? Symptoms/Analysis for Each

What Are the 5 Stages of PTSD? Symptoms/Analysis for Each

What are the 5 stages of PTSD? Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a kind of health problem that can happen after someone sees or experiences something very scary. Imagine if you saw a big, frightening bear in the forest. After that, you might feel scared or have bad dreams about bears. That’s like PTSD, but it happens with other scary things, too, like car accidents or being in a big storm. 

People with PTSD can feel scared, have bad dreams, or think a lot about what scared them. It’s important to know there are 5 stages or steps people with PTSD might go through. We’re going to talk about what these stages are and what they feel like.

PTSD symptoms

Understanding PTSD and Traumatic Events 

Sometimes, people go through really scary things. These can be big storms, dangerous accidents, or times when they feel very unsafe. After these difficult things, people might have PTSD. Their brain keeps thinking about the scary thing and doesn’t stop. It’s not just adults; kids can have PTSD, too.

Doctors who help with our minds, called mental health professionals, are there to help people with PTSD. They listen and help them feel better. They know a lot about how our minds work when we get scared. Doctors can talk to you, play games, or teach you ways to feel less afraid.

It’s like when you fall and hurt your knee. You go to a doctor who knows how to make your knee better. Mental health professionals are like doctors for your feelings and thoughts when something very scary happens.

Mental health professionals

The Five Stages of PTSD 

Impact Stage 

This is right after the scary thing happens. People might feel very scared or shocked. It’s like if you see a big spider and can’t stop thinking about it. You might feel shaky or have a fast heartbeat. People need hugs and to talk to someone who cares. It helps them feel less alone.

Family and friends can be a big help. They can listen and be there for you. It’s important to tell them how you feel. They might not know how scared you are. They can understand and help you feel safe when you talk about it.

The Five Stages of PTSD

Denial/Numbing Stage 

Sometimes, people pretend the scary thing didn’t happen. It’s like saying, “I’m not scared of spiders,” but you are. This is called denial. It’s a way to protect yourself from feeling scared all the time.

Sometimes, people also feel numb. This means they don’t feel happy or sad, just nothing. It’s like when your leg falls asleep. You can’t handle it much. Your feelings can be like that, too. You don’t feel much about anything.

It’s important to talk about these feelings. When you speak, it helps your brain understand it’s okay to feel scared. It’s part of getting better. Talking enables you to feel free at this stage.

The Five Stages of PTSD 1

Repetitive/Intrusive Stage 

In this stage, people can’t stop thinking about the scary thing. It’s like a movie that keeps playing in your head. You might have bad dreams about it or feel scared when something reminds you of it.

This happens because your brain is trying to understand the scary thing. It’s like when you keep asking “why” about something. Your brain is asking “why” about the difficult thing.

It’s normal to feel this way. But it can make you feel very tired and upset. It’s important to talk to someone about it. They can help your brain find answers and feel better. This might be a parent, teacher, or doctor who knows about feelings. They can help you feel less scared and have fewer bad dreams.

The Five Stages of PTSD 2

Intermediate/Short-term Recovery Stage 

After a while, people start to feel better. This is the intermediate stage. It’s like when you begin to heal after a cut or a bruise. You’re not all better yet, but it doesn’t hurt as much.

In this stage, people start to think about the scary thing differently. They understand it better. They might learn new ways to deal with fear, like breathing deeply or talking about their feelings. This helps them feel more in control and less afraid.

It’s like learning how to ride a bike. At first, you might fall, and it’s scary. But then you know how to balance, and it gets easier. Learning how to handle fearful thoughts is similar to that. You understand and get better at it.

Friends, family, and sometimes doctors can help a lot here. They teach you ways to feel better and help you practice them. It’s a big step in feeling okay again.

Long-term Recovery/Integration Stage 

The last stage is long-term recovery. People have learned a lot about dealing with their scary memories. They use what they’ve learned to feel okay most days. It’s like when you’ve practiced riding your bike a lot. You can do it easily now.

In this stage, people might still think about the scary thing sometimes. But they know how to handle it. They use the skills they’ve learned, like deep breathing or talking to someone when they feel scared. This helps them not feel too upset.

Sometimes, things might still make them feel scared, like a loud noise or a surprise. When this happens, they know what to do. They use their skills to feel safe again.

This stage can take a long time. It’s different for everyone. Some people feel better quickly, while others take longer. But that’s okay. Everyone heals at their speed. Remember, it’s like learning to ride a bike. Some know fast, some take more time, but everyone can get there.

The Five Stages of PTSD

PTSD Symptoms and Their Management 

PTSD can make people feel and act differently. Imagine your mind is like a busy street. Usually, cars (your thoughts) go by smoothly. But with PTSD, it’s like there’s a traffic jam. The same scary thoughts keep going around and around. People with PTSD might have nightmares or feel scared a lot. They might get upset easily or have trouble sleeping. It’s like their brain can’t stop thinking about the scary thing.

But there are ways to help with these symptoms. Think of them like traffic lights that enable you to manage busy thoughts. Deep breathing is one way. It’s like slowing down the cars on the street. Talking to someone who understands, like a counselor or a friend, can also help. They’re like helpers who direct the traffic, so it’s more relaxed. Some people might need medicine, a special tool to help the traffic move better.

It’s important to remember that it’s okay to ask for help. Just like you would ask for help in a busy street, it’s okay to ask for help with PTSD.

 PTSD management

PTSD in Different Contexts 

PTSD can happen to anyone, no matter who they are. It can happen to soldiers who were in a war, people who survived a big storm, or someone who was in a bad car accident. Even kids can have PTSD. Whether you’re a boy or a girl, big or small, it doesn’t matter. PTSD can happen if you’ve seen or felt something very scary.

Each person feels PTSD differently. For some, it’s like being scared of a big dog. For others, it might feel like remembering a really bad storm. But everyone with PTSD needs kindness and help.

PTSD in soldiers

Coping with PTSD: The Role of Family, Friends, and Society 

When someone has PTSD, their family and friends can be a big help. They’re like a team that helps them feel safe. It’s important to listen to them and give them hugs. Let them know it’s okay to talk about their feelings. Being there for them can make a big difference.

Schools and communities can help, too. Teachers and friends can be understanding and patient. It’s like being a good teammate in a game. When everyone works together, it’s easier to help someone with PTSD. They can feel supported and not alone. Everyone doing their part is important. It’s like helping a friend who fell. You help them up and make sure they’re okay. That’s what we can do for people with PTSD.

Coping with PTSD

How Long After Trauma Does PTSD Start? 

PTSD can start at different times for everyone. Think about when you catch a cold. Some people get a cold as soon as it gets cold outside. Others might not see a cold until much later or after playing in the snow.

PTSD is kind of like that. For some, it might start just a few weeks after something scary happens. But for others, it might take longer, like many months or years. Every person is different, and their minds react to difficult things in their way. 

Just like our bodies decide when to catch a cold, our minds determine when we might start feeling scared or having bad dreams after something scary. It’s important to remember that whenever it starts, it’s okay, and some people can help.

PTSD onset time

Trauma Recovery 

Getting better after something really scary, like trauma recovery, is possible. Imagine if you fell off your bike and scraped your knee. It hurts at first, but then it starts to heal. You might need a bandage or some medicine. Trauma recovery is like that but for your feelings and thoughts. People can learn how to feel safe and happy again. They might talk to someone who understands, like a doctor for feelings, called a therapist. They might learn new ways to calm down when they feel scared, like deep breathing or thinking happy thoughts. It’s like learning to ride the bike again after you fall. You might be scared at first, but you can enjoy biking again with practice. People who have been through scary things can also get better and enjoy life. It’s all about learning, practicing, and getting a little help.

Recovery from trauma


We learned that PTSD is like a long journey after seeing or feeling something really scary. It’s okay to feel scared or have bad dreams, and talking about these feelings is really important. Remember, just like when you scrape your knee, your mind also takes time to heal. There are people, like family, friends, and doctors, who can help you along the way. They’re like helpers on your journey to feeling better. Everyone’s journey is different, and that’s okay. The most important thing is to remember that you’re not alone, and it’s always okay to ask for help when you need it. With support and time, you can feel happier and safer again, just like after healing from a scraped knee.

Leave a Comment