Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Summary

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was described through much of the 20th century and was referred to as shell shock and combat neurosis in the belief that its symptoms were thought to emerge from the stress of active combat. Today, PTSD is defined as a disorder in which the experience of a traumatic or profoundly stressful event, such as combat, sexual assault, or natural disaster, produces a constellation of symptoms that must last for one month or more. These symptoms include intrusive and distressing memories of the event, flashbacks, avoidance of stimuli or situations that are connected to the event, persistently negative emotional states, feeling detached from others, irritability, proneness toward outbursts, and a tendency to be easily startled. Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD; a variety of risk factors associated with its development have been identified.