PTSD and Fatigue: Is It Normal to Feel So Tired?

October 3, 2012 Michele Rosenthal

Learn why PTSD causes fatigue. Many with PTSD report always being tired. Then find out what to do about fatigue related to PTSD.

I received an email from a client last week; he was very upset. Usually, he's the kind of guy who likes to travel on the drop of a dime but since PTSD began to control his life, he’s noticed that traveling takes an enormous toll on him.

After even the smallest trip, he wrote, "I have to sleep all the next day. Is this part of the PTSD profile?"

In a word: Yes.

Why PTSD Causes Fatigue

Let’s start with the mind/body connection. While modern medicine preaches the separation of your mind and body (I can’t tell you how many times my doctors said, "Your trauma that led to PTSD happened years ago, that can’t possibly be affecting you now!"), the truth is that your mind is capable of producing 50% more stress than your body can handle.

Think about that: If your mind is producing so much stress that your body can’t handle it, what will your body do? That’s right! Your body will let you know that your entire being is overly taxed. One way to do that is to feel enormously exhausted.

Then let’s add in depression. According to research, people who are depressed are more than four times as likely to experience inexplicable fatigue. Even without the research, I bet you know that from personal experience. You wake up in the morning feeling like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Or as one client told me yesterday, "The thought of the day is just unbearable." Carrying all of that load is exhausting! PTSD depression is particularly heavy. Often tied to issues that involve the past, present and future, plus topics that have to do with the very core of who you are, depression can weigh you down like cement boots in a swamp of quicksand. It won’t take long before you just feel ready to curl up and take a nap.

Now, let’s get more scientific about it all. Cortisol is the stress hormone you most need to understand. Useful during a trauma, cortisol helps desensitize us so we feel less pain, increases short-term memory function, and acts as a quick energy boost. All good things, right? But here’s the kicker:

When present in higher levels for a prolonged period of time cortisol can be responsible for memory loss, fatigue, and reduced serotonin levels. Typically high during and immediately after trauma, some studies have shown that cortisol levels actually decrease later in the presence of PTSD. (We’re all unique and different so the only way to know how cortisol might be affecting you is through the results of a quick blood test done at any lab as prescribed by your doctor.)

Scientifically speaking a little further: The adrenal system processes stress hormones, including cortisol. When there’s an overload on the adrenal system a survivor might experience a variety of symptoms such as fatigue, exhaustion and an overload of stress. While the medical community does not recognize adrenal fatigue as an accepted medical diagnosis, the symptoms can’t be denied. (Like cortisol, the effects of adrenal overload can be identified through a blood test.)

Whatever is going on with you – be it emotional, mental or physical in origin – the bottom line is that fatigue (and often inexplicable fatigue) very often accompanies symptoms of PSTD. If this is the case for you, be your own best friend.

Give yourself the rest your body calls for. Reduce the amount of running around and other over-stimulation you allow. Also, reach out to your personal and professional support system to help develop a schedule that both honors and respects the fatigue while also trying to reduce and even eliminate it through proper PTSD treatment.

Michele is the author of Your Life After Trauma: Powerful Practices to Reclaim Your Identity. Connect with her on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and her website,

APA Reference
Rosenthal, M. (2012, October 3). PTSD and Fatigue: Is It Normal to Feel So Tired?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Michele Rosenthal

Russell Cobleigh
June, 28 2020 at 6:49 am

i was inured at work in 2015 when an overhead lamp came lose swung down and hit me on the head and neck, could this be what i am going through now ?

February, 23 2019 at 3:12 pm

This article made so much sense to me, I have PTSD from being sexually abused for 6 years. I get so frustrated with myself for always being tired even when I've slept for hours. Being stressed when things are going good, for having a hard time remembering things and such a hard time connecting emotionally to the people I care about. I have tried so hard to just be normal and not have so many issues but I can't. I know it's irrational but I feel like I am letting my husband and family down because there are so many placings and things I struggle with and no matter how hard I try I just can't get over it. I get so overwhelmed with the simplest tasks, staying focused can be impossible some days and it feels like my brain is always on overdrive.
Then we add in the bipolar and well I'm just a freaking mess. Somedays I just feel like I can't even function.

August, 31 2021 at 3:26 pm

Hi Allie,
I’m not sure if you’ll see this response, but I wanted you to know I stumbled across your comment and relate. My trauma is not as big as yours, but I too have recently diagnosed bipolar and am going through intensive therapy, and I’m EXHAUSTED often. I hope you’ve gotten help since writing this comment. Happy to connect if you would like. All my best. ♥️

Shelly Gould
July, 6 2018 at 3:38 pm

I’ve only just realised 23 months after the birth of my first child that maybe I suffered from PTSD. Prior to my birth, which was traumatic, I had PTSD from three traumatic events in my
Life. I was sexually abused by my grandfather as a child and blocked it out for many years. I survived a major earthquake and started to have panic attacks and then I witnessed my friend losing her brother to suicide. At the time of my friends trauma I went to a counsellor as I started to have panic attacks again that were consuming my life. The counsellor said I had PTSD from the earthquake. Moving forward I had a good pregnancy but I had a panic attack about my ability to get sleep after the baby was born. Following her birth I was diagnosed with pna/pnd but it never felt right. The minute my waters broke -I could NOT sleep. It was like I switched a light on. I had a 40 hr labour that needed assistance (augmentation). I felt nothing when my baby was finally born. Like I was looking at a stranger. I remember begging for a sleeping pill at the hospital three days in. My fight or flight response was so severe I had to go on a smoothie only diet as I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t breastfeed etc - short story was it all went really wrong. I had to give up trying to breastfeed as I Still couldn’t sleep 3 weeks later and the dr put me in 3 zopilcone sleeping tabs and 3 phenergen to relax to ‘try’ to sleep. Even then it was a battle to sleep. I’d get 4-5 hrs on all those pills. They put me on anti anxiety meds but it still didn’t help my sleep. Fast forward 23 months later, I still struggle to sleep. I am constantly fatigued. I fall asleep and maybe have one sleep cycle and then I spend the night in a light state of sleep where I can just open my eyes at any time. I don’t ‘wake up’ anymore. It is exhausting. I don’t understand what is causing my sleep issues. I didn’t suffer flashbacks of the birth but I did block out a lot of the first 3-5 weeks of being a mother and I also got incredibly stressed having a smear test a year later. I cried and the nurse was confused - I tried to explain I had a traumatic birth but she thought I was being silly. I am confused- does it sound like I had PTSD?

June, 24 2018 at 10:09 pm

I have complex PTSD due to a 10 year trauma when I was a child; being neglected by my own mother and step-father. Neglected; sexually abused, physically, verbally and emotionally, tortured and etc... Also by her X's friends that will come at night and other sitters that took care of us. At 15 my mother left her x; but I was still being abused physically and verbally abused by her. Then I ended up in violent relationship at 16 for 3 years where I was too verbally and physically abused. I became pregnant at 17 going to 18. Then I lost the true person I truely loved with all my being. My baby. That was my last straw. I was alone completely. It was hard. But for some reason despite all this I had hope. I thought I will grow and forget. I'm know 28 and getting therapy and bibble study. It's hard .
Before my trauma i had been taken way from my mother from the CPS at 2 weeks born due to physically trauma and then diagnosed with a seizure disorders around the same time. My seizure come and goes which makes it hard for recovery. But I'm still here and alife fighting a battle that I did not seek for.

Sophia Maya
March, 28 2018 at 9:03 am

Fatigue is a specific symptom of Adrenal Fatigue and Adrenal Fatigue is related to PTSD...
Last year being diagnosed with Adrenal, Pancreatic, Liver, Kidney connected the dots for me. I no longer believe treatment for PTSD is simply EMDR, cognitive behavioral, and insight therapies..we must treat our bodies too because PTSD manifests on a real physical level within the nerves, tissue, and organs of our body. ??
We Correctional Officers in California use to have the luxury of living 5 years after retirement; now statistics back in the early 2000's show life expectancy is 3 years. 3 of my supervisors died of heart attacks within one year of retiring...another suffered a massive stroke that left him paralyzed and unable to talk. I was luck: 6 years after medical retirement, my body began to close down. Serious interventions by a team of neurologists, Immunologists, allergist, cardiologist, internal medicine, and functional doctor saved my life. I think also, us First Responders need to become advocates and responders to our immediate personal health ??. It should 't take an emergency medical situation in order to wake us up to this.
High blood pressure
High sugar levels
High cholesterol
High inflammation
Low organ functioning
Low blood pressure below normal (me)

August, 22 2017 at 12:01 pm

All the above symptoms are so true. I do feel Guilty when I want to lie down; so I am more stressed out. I drag myself to do everything.It takes all my energy in my body to get going.

May, 13 2017 at 3:38 am

[…] crawl my way out of. The level of exhaustion is hard to describe. I read somewhere that people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder feel so tired all the time because you are basically on high alert constantly. After nightmares all […]

September, 5 2016 at 11:38 am

I've had PTSD since was a small child. Sometimes I put out a tremendous amount of energy to make positive things happen in my life, but at least once a week I seem to need to sleep an entire day, and feel utterly powerless. I wish I had the proper balance to understand the right pace, especially since I have eight year old twins to care for.

October, 24 2015 at 10:52 am

I had EMDR yesterday for the first time to help prepare me for my MFT exam next Friday. I decided to have one more on the day of the exam. Should I have it done the day before b/c the EMDR made me so sleepy? I am still exhausted from yesterday.

October, 13 2015 at 3:21 am

I'm drain all the timeI can not get Also my past my Mother death of being hit by a car and then be drag under the drivers car an

May, 13 2015 at 12:02 pm

Hi All,
I have Complex PSTD and Major Depression. I also struggle with Adrenal Fatigue. I've gone through EMDR therapy and it was the best thing I ever could've done for myself. I'm also on 30mg Cellexa a day.
Regarding the Adrenal Fatigue I didn't just rely on supplements, I changed my diet and eating schedule. Giving up stimulants like caffeine and sugar is a primary step. Seems counter intuitive, I know because it's natural to reach for stimulants when you're exhausted. The way past Adrenal Fatigue is to rest your adrenal glands. Also, you have to give up any exercise or activity that raises your heart rate. Again, because a pounding heart and sweat is always accompanied by a release of adrenaline and that's no good.
A good check for excess adrenaline is to stand in a dark room with a mirror and a flashlight and shine the light into your pupils. If your pupils are unable to stay contracted in the bright light that means the amount of adrenaline coursing through your system is very high. This realization as you also feel incredibly tired tells you that your adrenal system is way out of whack.
It took me 18 months to recover proper adrenal function. I remain vigilant though because I don't want to damage my adrenal system anymore.
I still crash from stress overload occasionally. I've given myself permission to just rest rest as much as I can or need to.
I suffered a very abusive childhood and am still in contact with my mother. Basically, I crash after every family holiday. I'd love to go no contact but my disabled brother lives with her so I do my best to set boundaries, etc... My mom has improved since I was young, but she's still my biggest trigger.
Thanks for letting me share.

Ian Shiel
April, 9 2015 at 1:22 am

I am a firefighter that had a TSOL event in 2009
The firestorms that killed 173 people in Australia
Only a doctor who has not been in a Traumatic stress over load would call it a post traumatic stress disorder , as if there is a pre traumatic stress order . We has TSOL or a massive cortisol overdose even many and may have damages the control for releasing cortisol in the appropriate amounts or at the appropriate time , basically to much to fast which I believe explains the the fact we cry to easterly , are jumpy , higher alert and get angry at minor issues .

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Caroline R
March, 22 2019 at 8:33 am

Ian Shiel
You are a HERO.
Thank you!
I wish you peace, healing, and much personal success.
Thank you to you and your incredibly brave colleagues for keeping the rest of us safe in Victoria in 2009.
We watched the clouds of smoke from the windows of the operating suite at Box Hill Hospital.

September, 18 2014 at 10:09 am

One year and a half ago when I felt like I was in danger at work for months, and then lost my job of many years, I began intensive therapy. More past traumas surfaced in therapy that I had apparently pushed out of my mind for years. Anyway, it is incredible that now I have jumped into trauma land, and I am having a really hard time getting out of this non amusement park filled with roller coaster rides. I relate to being tired and unable to concentrate. Now I can sleep all day, but that's not healthy. I am so trying to stay motivated but the pains are greater than lil ole me.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Caroline R
March, 22 2019 at 8:21 am

"This non amusement park of rollercoaster rides..."
Ha ha ha!
Thanks for the laugh.
Nothing about PTSD has made me laugh until your witty comment.
Actually I have found myself playing an endless game of "where are my keys?".
So no laughs there either.
Yours is still the winning comment.
I wish you continued healing and peace.

August, 28 2019 at 7:54 am

Caroline R, make sure you always put your keys in the same place,save a lot of stress happening😊

September, 17 2014 at 11:19 am

Hi, I was so happy to find this. Quite a number of years ago I was involved in a car accident and I was the only survivor. I lost my entire family.. I never did manage to completely get over everything including the PTSD. I know now the warning signs, noise levels effect, I need to hibernate and I sleep. This happens now and I understand my stresses. Note them down, and times of year.

July, 11 2014 at 8:01 am

Hi...I have had PTSD for several years from multiple traumatic,events. I only ever had traits. I coped on a day to day level. A one off incident triggered full blown multiple flash backs in 2011. Although i went down into a deep depression i also had the ability to pull my self through the darkness with coping strategies.
My problems started as i was coming out the other side of the depression 6 weeks later.
I worked in a mental health organization and felt safe. Stupidly i disclosed the causes. I was sacked unceremoniously, during which time i was shaking violently hyperventilating and stuttering. the reason I was given that since disclosing no one wanted to work with me and how did i know if someone else had suffered the same fate...I was told to leave the building and not to return. i was then ostracized by the,team.marginalized and treated as if i was the worst maddest person employed by the organization. My work had been excellent. My boss didn't even have the professionalism to tell anyone of her actions.
Now 3 yrs on i ha e moved and trying to start again. I am once again off sick with ptsd. Just walking into an office is destroying me.

rose may richard
June, 4 2014 at 5:36 pm

Thanks for your sharing. It helps to know one is not alone. Sharing is difinitelly a healing process. Rosie

Ryan Allen
April, 10 2014 at 6:18 pm

Ok look. I'm no expert. About two years ago I went through something that caused my mind and body a lot of trauma. I began to expirience a lot off horrible symptoms about three months after the last of the trauma.
After studying a lot I came to a conclusion that I had created a serious adrenal problem
I have concluded that Dp/DR. Kundalini awakenings, PTSD and im sure a lot of other Conditions share these similar symptoms
For me
Existential thoughts
Weird body sensations
Floating arms
Itching crawling
Left eye going bad
Left hip pain
Upper back pain in my spine
Slipping disks
Zero motivation to do anything
Socially withdrawn
Mo memory with numbers or sentence recall
There are more!!!
I feel like the answers are right in front of our face. It seems like the entire medical community doesn't want us to know or they didn't go over this in class. Either way. Here's how I fixed it. Yes I think this could maybe work or help with the conditions I said earlier
Dhea. Start 5 to 10 mgs in morning. With or without food. Might upset stomach for first few days
Pregnenolone. 10 mgs. 3 to 4 hours after taking the dhea
Amino acids
L-tyrosine. 500 to 1000 mgs in the morning. This will help u make l dopa. Dopamine norepinephrine and epinephrine. This has to be taken on an empty stomach due to the competing nature of the amino acids in the body. These are the transmitters that will give you back your motivation and many other things!! It really is powerful and safe compared to a lot of other things
Sam-e. this will give you some serotonin back and will helpmyournbady pain
400 mgs on empty stomach. Maybe early afternoon.
Lots of vit c. 2000 to 3000 mgs
And magnesium
B complex
All this is really inexpensive. You could get all 7 things for under 50 dollars.
Doctors don't know much about this I'm afraid. Doesn't seem like it to me.
I'm not a doctor. I sometimes am above average at making connections and I pulled out of this with my own grit and I know you guys can too. Hope this helps. Try it for two weeks at least. You might be amazed!!!! I truly was. This was my own research so I don't have a book or guide to tell about for more study.
Please at least ask your doctors about the hormones if you feel better in the two weeks. Hormones can mess you up if you don't need them. 4 months is supposed to be a good reference point
And the amino acids need to be looked at if you are already on antidepressant medicines.
Good luck. Really hope this helps

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Michele Rosenthal
April, 15 2014 at 8:28 am

@Ryan -- Thanks for all the great info! You've just listed a lot of what's in my vitamin cupboard. :)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 5 2016 at 12:06 pm

Thanks for the info!

February, 8 2014 at 9:04 am

I have been to Iraq 2 times and always tired been to marriage counseling and the counselor I have anxiety issues constantly worrying about things. Needless to say my wife and I has separated 3 times since 2010 and are heading towards a divorce

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Michele Rosenthal
February, 12 2014 at 12:01 pm

@Shawn - -I'm so sorry to hear that. Holding together a relationship through PTSD is an incredible challenge and often not one that a marriage can withstand.

Susan S
December, 26 2013 at 9:11 am

I had suffered from PTSD my entire life and never knew it. Think Mommy Dearest on steroids. At 37, my anxiety was so high I thought it would kill me, so I finally sought out a therapist. I was lucky. He was very good and we managed to get my anxiety level down to a level where I could function. He put me on Clomipramine which is pretty intense, but it literally made it impossible for me to get anxious. After about 3 years, I was able to stop taking it as I had finally learned how not to feel that way. 5 years later, my husband dropped dead from an aneurism. That was rough, but I got through it. Then I changed jobs after being at my previous employer for 15 years. All was good until I wound up with a a manager that was much like my mother. Mentally abusive, moody and unpredictable. I started experiencing these debilitating periods of fatigue that would last for about a month. I couldn't sleep, and when I did, I never felt refreshed. My bowels stopped moving. I felt like I had no blood pressure and must be dying. My mind was so foggy I couldn't think straight. It happened about once a year for 5 years. I went to all kinds of doctors, including an endocrinologist... All inconclusive. No joy. My research pointed to adrenal fatigue but not a medically accepted diagnosis. Ugh. After putting together a timeline of all of my 'crashes', it always happened after an incident that caused a huge rush of adrenaline. I'm sure the PTSD was highly contributory as you know how over sensitive we are to threats, real or imagined. I lucked out again as I found a doctor that specialized in adrenal fatigue. I was very skeptical, but everything he said made sense. He ordered a saliva test that indicated my cortisol levels were plummeting after noon. I was also 52, so I had that going on as well. He put me on Adrenal-All, DHEA, bio identical progesterone, and bio identical testosterone. That was 18 months ago. When I was only 9 months into the therapy, I had an attempted burglary at my home while I was in the house. Talk about an adrenaline rush. Fortunately he couldn't get in, and I was armed, and the perpetrator was caught. Afterwards I was like, oh no, I am surely going to crash tomorrow... I had crashed after much less intensive situations... But the crash never came. Had that happened the year before, I am certain I would have crashed and crashed hard. I would have been down for over a month. For the first time in 5 years, I came through a scare without crashing. I can't tell you how relieved I was. If you've experienced these crashes, you know how terrifying they are. I went to an outfit called Bodylogic, MD, but there are many doctors that specialize in adrenal fatigue and bio identical hormone therapy. No, I am not affiliated with them or anyone else. Insurance won't cover a dime, but it was well worth it. I know now that my PTSD led me straight into adrenal fatigue, it makes perfect sense. Your adrenals get so exhausted from the anxiety that adrenalin is all you have left. If something happens that makes you dump all of your adrenaline, you crash. Hopefully someday the mainstream medical community will recognize it, but for now, you basically have to diagnose yourself.

December, 10 2013 at 5:10 am

Will the PTSD ever go away. I want the old me back.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Ian Shiel
April, 9 2015 at 12:59 am

G'day Jennifer
Sadly it's like asking will your broke leg ever go away , the short answer is no , it will repair over time but you can never have a unbroken bone again , sometime it's stronger after it repairs and the mussels can be built up to make the leg stronger ,it is like this in your mind , you with get over this injury but need to work on strenghing the areas of your mind like you would mussels . also you need to learn the possible risks of a second injury and work out ways to minimize the risk . do may end up with a limp but at least you can walk , and may work so hard on strengthening the mussels you win gold in the Olympics for weight lifting its really up to us to get ourself back to as close to the old self as we can . sure we can also ways use a hand from anyone will to help us . hope that helps .

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 5 2016 at 12:09 pm

It's true.. the scars remain, like on the trunk of an old tree, but that doesn't mean the tree will not blossom and bear fruit. It is part of our journey, and we have to face it and adapt the best we can. The important thing to remember is that you are incredibly strong to have survived in the first place... and even though it makes you feel isolated, you are not alone. There are so many of us carrying these burdens, and we can empathize and understand in ways that many others cannot.

November, 6 2013 at 1:52 pm

Hi Michele,
Thank you so much for your information in this blog. I came across it on a google search and even though I'm Canadian and our system up here is a bit different I found your blog ever so helpful and your writing style is phenomenally engaging! It is so wonderful to know that I am not alone in my fatigue, that I'm not being lazy, and that there is a logical explanation for why I'm so tired. I was diagnosed with C-PTSD after a series of work place violent incidents, an abusive relationship with my former husband, and childhood physical abuse. I am a single mother of two wonderful girls and I have been struggling with my expectations for myself and the reality of what my body is allowing me to do. It has been a year since I was first diagnosed, along with bipolar disorder. I have healed a lot since then through the help of counselling, medical care and CBT and medication. Since I have returned to work part-time, I have been immensely tired, for days afterward. I feel like I shouldn't be this tired. As I struggle with hypervigilance, I'm wondering if that would be a factor as well? I also seem to lose my keys, etc. often on workdays. Your blog was so compassionately written that i feel i can allow myself to heal physically without being angry or frustrated with myself for being so tired. It also gives me hope that as I heal my seemingly endlesss fatigue will improve. Thanks again for your awesome blog! It is wonderful to find this information.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Michele Rosenthal
November, 6 2013 at 2:02 pm

@Christie -- I'm so glad you're here! And very excited that the information on this blog has led you to some new insights about yourself. It sounds like not only did you discover that you're experiencing something completely normal (including the lost keys on workdays, I hear that often!), buy it sounds like you're already implementing a new level of self-kindness; that's really important too. In fact, my next radio show is all about that. If you'd like more information about how to heal from experts in the field, tune into CHANGING DIRECTION, or listen to the archives any time for more new ideas and validation for what you're experiencing:
You have enormous healing potential; the goal is learning to access it. Onward toward freedom!

October, 6 2013 at 9:09 am

Very helpful and informative site. 4 yrs ago I was involved in a tragic single car accident with my husband. He had to swerve to miss a moose that jump on the hwy without any warning. We rolled over 4 times. My husband died and I sustained injuries. I was forced to return to work on a gradual return to work 14 months after. This failed numerous times. Then the severe depression and now being slowly weaned off meds. I have been forced to work full time for almost a year and continuously battling everything including severe fatigue for 4 yrs now. This fatigue seems to be ignored by my professionals, and I can no longer deal with my daily work as I struggle to get up to go to work, struggle to find energy throughout the day and evening, weekends and even for my first time on vacation this summer since the accident. I struggled to do my work and to deal with my terrible loss with professionals. I now have a wonderful companion and am still having this terrible fatigue. I have a lot of natural vitamins and don't feel like I am getting anywhere. I am exhausted of trying to fight this fatigue and trying to have a normal life. I don't think I should be working in order to have a normal life, to permit me to use the little energy I have. I did have Wellbutrin and Effexor. Do you have any suggestions?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Michele Rosenthal
November, 6 2013 at 2:04 pm

@Carole -- For added energy from a holistic source I really love ADAPTEN-ALL, from Ortho Molecular Products. It's a natural adrenal supplement that helped me enormously. Check with your physician if you have any medical conditions or on medication to see if this would be an appropriate supplement for you.

Eric Berthold
June, 6 2013 at 8:25 pm

Adrenal fatigue is a term applied to a collection of nonspecific symptoms, such as body aches, fatigue, nervousness, sleep disturbances and digestive problems. The term often shows up in popular health books and on alternative medicine websites, but it isn't an accepted medical diagnosis.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Michele Rosenthal
June, 15 2013 at 12:21 pm

@Eric -- Very true, thanks for adding that. Many survivors actually take holistic adrenal supplements to help improve that area of function.

April, 15 2013 at 4:43 pm

Hi there,
Thanks so much for your article! I recently went through quite a rough patch with my father being very ill, his wife not letting me know anything about his condition etc. Then my friend's son hanged himself. Two days after that I was mugged by two men with a knife.
This was about a month and a half ago. I am suffering from extreme nightmares and am constantly exhausted. It doesn't matter how much I sleep I am always tired.
The thing about the mugging is that it brought up a lot of past abuse I've been through and I want to know if "past PTSD" can affect "current PTSD" or does it have a "memory" that is stored somewhere in the brain?
Once again, many thanks for a very informative article.
Penny :)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Michele Rosenthal
April, 16 2013 at 3:54 pm

@Penny -- First, let me just say that I admire your courage and resilience. That was an enormous amount of trauma to handle in any amount of time much less such a short period of time.
What you're describing is very common and the short answer is, yes. Past traumas and how they have or have not been resolved definitely affect current trauma and their effects. Long-term memory is stored both in the body and the mind so it makes perfect sense that, faced with a similarly experienced enormous feeling of fear or situation or sensation those earlier neural pathways holding past trauma could be activated in your present situation.
The good news is there are many ways to reduce the effects of all trauma and find your way to healing. If you're interested, take a look here for ideas about recovery:

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

November, 24 2014 at 8:39 pm

Look into condition called, "complex PTSD". It is still a bit of a controversy, but I am getting treatment through a psychiatrist and psychologist who practices "EMDR". I know complex PTSD was the right diagnosis for me, specifically because of early, chronic trauma, then an incident of near death as an adult.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 5 2016 at 12:05 pm

Gosh, that was so much loss ans stress to suffer in such a short time. Yes, PTSD stores memories apart from your emotional awareness to help your survive. But those memories remain and can get triggered by other stresses and traumas. Only by facing them and allowing yourself to feel, bit by bit, the once terrifying emotions locked away with them, can you begin to heal. For me, the pain hasn't gone away but at least I have learned to not repeat the patterns that cause me pain.... that repetition of patterns is the memory's way of trying to purge itself of the trauma.
My dad, too is sick --- with bone marrow cancer. My dad and mom divorced when I was only a toddler, and when he remarried his new wife didn't want anyone to know he'd been married before, and so they never told their children, my own half-siblings, that I existed. After not seeing my dad for over 30 years I had begun to visit them once a year ---- but never got really close ---- when my dad got sick my stepmother and half sister tried to prevent me from seeing him. And when I went to see him anyway my half sister never spoke to me again. Later, when I was posting on FB about how my PTSD stemmed from three childhood traumas: losing my dad, being molested (by a pediatrician) and developing a form of OCD, half brother's wife thought I was accusing my dad of molesting me and forbade him from seeing her children. They patched things up but guess who they blame? Me. Now he won't talk to me at all.
Talk about the recurring pain of trauma. Through all of this I was finishing my PhD. It was the hardest time I'd ever gotten through.
Now I am done trying to get a sense of family or belonging from my dad or any of his second family. It is so terribly sad, but I know I will feel better in the long run to not to chase after a sense of connection with them. Doubly sad because my mom is totally narcissistic and her idea of love is controlling people, including me, and if you don't let her control you, she just gets mad.
So somehow we have to survive, face the trauma & its associated emotions, and mourn the loss. We can get through it all. We need to honor ourselves and give ourselves plenty of time to heal and let the inner light that is the true you to shine through.

January, 17 2013 at 10:49 pm

I am a Hurricane Sandy Survivor.I live in Hard hit Long Beach, N.Y. less than a block away from the Ocean. and was at home, when the 17+ foot ocean surge came down my block and started to climb the stairs to my apartment. I didn't know if I would live through the night. I was all alone, with no power. no phone or cell phone service. no running water. and did not know how long I would be trapped here.My car was destroyed by the Ocean Surge. so I could not leave.Eventually I was rescued and evacuated to friends.When I was finally able to return home , I retuned to a damaged home. and a City that was completely decimated. It was surreal. The streets were covered by so much sand that sanitation workers are STILL shoveling it off the streets 12 weeks later. The Curbs and sidewalks were filled with people's possessions-including the WALLS of their homes. Our City is in ruins.Even the hospital was destroyed. My mind could hardly process that any of this had happened due to the scope of the damage.A number of homes burned down the night of the Hurricane. Many lost their entire homes, or their first floors. I have suffered great financial losses in terms of damages to home, vehicle etc etc.
and am now dealing with mold issues. It has been very overwhelming.
All things considered, I was functioning almost remarkably well-considering the magnitude of the trauma. both DURING and after the hurricane.for about a month or more. Suddenly , I was seized by such overwhelming exhaustion that I have been unable to even go to the supermarket to buy food. for a week or more at a time. As I also had respiratory symptoms,I thought I was ill, but I was too exhausted to go even go see a Dr. until today. when my Dr. suggested that my exhaustioni is "probably due to what you have been through."
How do I know if I am physically ill or if the trauma has caused the exhaustion.
I am very glad to have found your article. The exhaustion is so crushing that I a nearly completely debilitated.Any advice as to how to proceed would be greatly appreciated. What kind of Dr. can I see to make sure that there is not a separte physical cause for my exhaustion?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Michele Rosenthal
January, 18 2013 at 6:39 pm

@Deborah -- I'm so sorry for what you've been through. As a native NYer my heart is with you all the way. You pose a great question. Here're my thoughts:
1 - the mind is capable of producing 50% more stress than the body can handle; when the body overloads it does create physical symptoms (I experienced this to such a degree in my own PTSD journey that I was (erroneously) diagnosed with Celiac Disease, mercury poisoning and possible liver cancer, among other things.)
2 - now would be a good time to have a full physical exam with your primary care physician. Make sure to include a full blood panel test so that you can rule out any physical causes.
3 - in lieu of diagnosed physical ailments (and even with them, for example, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, etc.) now would be the best time to design your own individual trauma resolution program. There are many treatments for trauma and PTSD that are enormously effective. Take a look at the options here (by no means fully conclusive but some of my favorites) and get a sense of what's available to you:
4 - I just did a terrific interview on my radio show with a practitioner that is on Long Island. Take a listen and if it feels right I highly recommend reaching out to him:
Please feel free to ask more questions, Deborah. The more you know and educate yourself the more quickly you will find relief. I'm here for you. :)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

January, 3 2016 at 1:40 am

At the age of 15 I was raped by a relative and I stuffed the memory away. At 23 I called a wedding off to a man who when I was hospitalized for depression the first time , my counselor had me read books on Ted Bundy to see their similarities. So yeah I had PTSD at an early age but through trauma resolution therapy, codependency education and DBT my trauma had taken a back seat. Then November 17, 2013 at 3:48 pm a tornado hit my house in Indiana. I was not home at the time but to this day I can remember the sights and sounds as we drove into the neighborhood. We were displaced for 3 weeks all the while my 15 year old Autistic daughter who we were adopting simply wanted to ride her bus to school. Our van was split in half by our neighbors tree so everyone coming through the neighborhood stopped in our drive to take pictures by it for their scrapbooks. But it was my van, by my house, disrupting my life! Once again PTSD from this and all the old stuff came back. But I worked in therapy and made it through. Jump to August 27, 2015 when the side wall of my bed broke around 2 am and I fell out of bed. Before I hit the floor I hit my eye on a piece of furniture and after emergency surgery with another that followed I have no sight in that eye. I am so very, very tired at this point. I wonder if my life will always have trauma. But my husband and I are foster/adoptive parents of teens many of who have PTSD. I often find myself holding my kids and telling them life will work out and it will get better. I cannot tell them this unless I really believe it but boy can life be a challenge and I never thought of my fatigue coming from my PTSD. Perhaps with this understanding I can be kinder to myself. Thank you so much for the new outlook!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kathleen Hankinson
September, 5 2016 at 11:42 am

I think once you've experienced trauma and have developed PTSD, subsequent stresses or shocks fall into that same pattern. Some people who have not been traumatized don't experience the same things you or I might as trauma. But since the old wound is there, it can get reopened.
I did some energy work that really helped me, but I am still hypervigilant, and so get overwhelmed and exhausted quite often.

January, 17 2013 at 5:11 pm

My 16 year young son james hung himself 2 years ago I am not the same woman ,I think of good memories they all end up with the same james hanging I found him I can't cope no more I don't want to socialize I don't want to do anything I don't leave the house everyday is a night mare I need help :(

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Michele Rosenthal
January, 18 2013 at 6:46 pm

@Julie -- Your situation would, indeed, be enormously tough to bear and you would just want to isolate and be alone. I'm so sorry for your pain and I wish there was something I could do to help. There are many terrific treatments for PTSD and trauma. One of my favorites (I used it in my own recovery) is neuro-linguistic programming. Some of the top names in NLP, Paul McKenna and John Grinder, are in London. I don't know how far from there you are, but you might look into meeting with them or their colleagues for help.
Until then, you can also try the Release Technique taught through The Sedona Method. You can read about it in a blog post I wrote:
There are lots of ways to heal. Do reach out to get the help you need. You're worth it.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Martha Joy
January, 22 2015 at 8:23 am

My son also hung himself when he was 15 yrs old that was 17 yrs ago and I have just been told I have PSTD...for I found him also.Myy heart goes out to u If u find a way to cope plz let me know.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Michele Rosenthal
February, 3 2015 at 9:59 am

@Martha Joy -- I'm so sorry for your loss and pain. Two ideas:
1 - options for healing can be found on
2 - join us in the free Heal My PTSD forum for support, connection and guidance:

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

July, 17 2013 at 4:45 am

Julie, I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I also wish there was anything I could do to help yo ease the pain. I have PTSD due to domestic violence and it is terrible but your case really touched me. I will pray for you. I hope you are feeling better.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

December, 17 2013 at 6:18 pm

The same thing happened to me with my 20 year old daughter. I have survived and thrived. Meditation, mindfulness, and IADC (Google Induced After Death Communication). My sister and many others have also been greatly helped by these kinds of things. Bless you.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Michele Rosenthal
January, 2 2014 at 6:09 am

@Mo -- Thanks for sharing your experience. When we share our stories we really strengthen the PTSD community and everyone in it. I'm so delighted to hear that you're feeling better. What a gift. Meditation was HUGE for me. I still practice it today because of it's scientific and spiritual benefits. Here's to your continued forward motion....

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