Posted on Leave a comment

PTSD and Fatigue Intertwined

photo of man in military uniform

Introduction to PTSD

Did you know that about 8 million people in the United States live with PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a “serious potentially debilitating condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist incident, sudden death of a loved one, war, violent personal assault such as rape, or other life-threatening events.” (ADAA)

As most people know, PTSD often occurs with depression, substance abuse, or other anxiety disorders. However, what many people do not know is that PTSD can also be linked to fatigue.

Symptoms of PTSD

PTSD symptoms are often broken down into 4 categories:

  • Reliving the trauma
  • Avoiding triggers
  • Excessive arousal / alertness
  • Intrusive thoughts

Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Recurring nightmares
  • Vivid flashbacks of a traumatic experience
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Restlessness and difficulty sleeping
  • Agitation and unpredictable temper flares
  • Exaggerated emotional responses to mild stressors
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • “Fight or flight” responses to stimuli


PTSD & Fatigue

When living with PTSD, certain triggers can produce a surge of stress hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol. When our nervous system is overloaded with adrenaline and cortisol, it can cause elevated blood pressure and rapid heart rate. These physical symptoms increase risk of anxiety disorders and make it difficult for your mind and body to relax.

In addition to the elevated stress hormones and triggers, the reliving, avoiding, intrusive thoughts, and excessive arousal are often overwhelming. Thus, one of the most common symptoms of PTSD is fatigue. Together, it can take a toll on the body. Mental exhaustion and burnout may happen without intervention.

What can you do?

In addition to counseling / therapy, there are four things you can do on your own:

  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Identifying your triggers
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Grounding exercises