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Intrusive Symptoms

Jamie Marich, Ph.D., LPCC-S, LICDC-CS, RMT, edited by C. E. Zupanick, Psy.D. Updated: Jul 15th 2015

Intrusive symptoms were previously called re-experiencing symptoms in older editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). People experiencing these intrusive symptoms describe it as though they are right back there, reliving (re-experiencing) the trauma all over again. These are called intrusive symptoms because they are unwanted, unbidden, and therefore, involuntary. Intrusive symptoms may be indicated in several ways:

1. Involuntary, distressing images, thoughts, or memories;
2. Flashbacks or dissociative reactions where it seems as if the trauma is reoccurring;
3. Distressing dreams and/or nightmares related in content or emotion to the trauma;
4. Intense psychological distress at reminders of the trauma,
5. Intense physiological distress, often referred to as body memory or body cues.

Let's take a look at each major symptom area and consider some examples of how each may manifest in an adult or a child.


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