Posttraumatic stress disorder

Posttraumatic stress disorder

Posttraumatic stress disorder refers to a persistent psychological disturbance that occurs following a traumatic event. This disorder can follow almost any distressing event, including a natural or manmade disaster, physical or sexual abuse, or an assault or a rape.

Psychological trauma accompanies the physical trauma and involves intense fear and feelings of helplessness and loss of control. Posttraumatic stress disorder can be acute, chronic, or delayed, occuring months or years later after the trauma. When the precipitating event is of human design, the disorder is more severe and more persistent. Onset can occur at any age, even during childhood.


Posttraumatic stress disorder occurs in response to an extremely distressing event, including a serious threat of harm to the patient or his family, such as war, abuse, violent crime, or natural disaster. It may be triggered by sudden destruction of his home or community by a bombing, fire, flood, tornado, earthquake, or similar disaster. It may also occur after the patient witnesses the death or serious injury of another person by torture, in a death camp, by natural disaster, or by a motor vehicle or airplane crash.

Preexisting psychopathology can predispose some patients to this disorder, but anyone can develop it, especially if the stressor is extreme.

Signs and symptoms

The psychosocial history of a patient with posttraumatic stress disorder may reveal early life experiences, interpersonal factors, military experiences, or other incidents that suggest the precipitating event. Typically, the patient may report that his symptoms began immediately or soon after the trauma, although they may not develop until months or years later. In such a case, avoidance symptoms usually have been present during the latency period.

Jun 16, 2016 | Posted by in GENERAL & FAMILY MEDICINE | Comments Off on Posttraumatic stress disorder

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