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Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Overview

Patient Comments

According to the American Psychological Association, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is "an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, such as terrorist attacks, motor vehicle accidents, rape, physical and sexual abuse, and other crimes, or military combat."

PTSD is a problem in which your brain continues to react with nervousness after you have had a horrific trauma even though the original trauma is over. Our brains can react by staying in "overdrive" and being hyperalert to the next possible trauma. Sometimes you might continue to "remember" the trauma by having "flashbacks" about the event or nightmares even though the trauma is in the past. After a traumatic event, we can also become "numb" and shut down our feelings and try to avoid situations that might cause us to remember the trauma.

Epidemiology

  • PTSD is somewhat common. The diagnosis of PTSD was developed by studying soldiers from war, and it was originally called "shell shock syndrome."
  • You can also get PTSD by being near a trauma or witnessing it. Professionals who are exposed to trauma in their daily work can also develop PTSD.
  • PTSD can also be caused by more long-term trauma such as sexual abuse of children or having a serious medical illness as a child or adult.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/24/2014
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Patient Comments & Reviews

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder »

The formal diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)was not introduced into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders until its third publication in 1980.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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