Women who have had abortions suffer from a specific "post-traumatic stress disorder" in which the destruction of their own child is sufficiently traumatic and beyond the range of customary human experience so as to cause significant symptoms of reexperience, avoidance and impacted grieving.
The abortion trauma is reexperienced as recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the experience; recurrent distressing dreams of the abortion or of the unborn child; sudden acting or feeling as if the abortion were recurring, accompanied by illusions, hallucinations and dissociative episodes especially upon awakening or when intoxicated; intense psychological distress at exposure to events that symbolize or resemble the experience (e.g. clinics, pregnant mothers, subsequent pregnancies); anniversary reactions of intense grieving or depression. There is persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the abortion trauma or numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the abortion), such as: efforts to avoid or deny thoughts or feelings associated with the abortion; efforts to avoid activities, situations or information that might arouse recollections of the abortion; inability to recall the abortion or an important aspect of the abortion (psychogenic amnesia); markedly diminished interest in significant activities; feeling of detachment or estrangement from others; withdrawal in relations and/or reduced communication; restricted range of effect, e.g. unable to have loving or tender feelings; sense of foreshortened future, e.g. does not expect to have a career, marriage, children or a long life. Associated persistent symptoms can include: difficulty falling or staying asleep; irritability or outbursts of anger; difficulty concentrating; hypervigilance; exaggerated startle response to intrusive recollections or re-experiencing of the abortion trauma; physiologic reactivity upon exposure to events or situations that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the abortion; depression or suicidal ideation; guilt about surviving when one's unborn child did not; self devaluation and/or an inability to forgive oneself; secondary substance abuse. The disturbance can exceed a month in duration or the onset may be delayed by six months or more after the abortion.