A Brief Overview of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychological disorder that might occur after someone has witnessed or experienced a traumatic event. Only a small number of people who have experienced a traumatic experience actually develops PTSD. Most people will have experienced at least one traumatic event by the age of 45.

PTSD has had many names during the history of psychology, if we assume that it always has existed. PTSD has previously been linked to physical conditions such as the “Shell Shock Syndrome”. Page (1883) was the first to suggest that the main cause of PTSD was psychological, which today is a widely held belief.

PTSD symptoms

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder symptoms, according to the Dysphoric Arousal Model (2011), which is a model that still receives support from evidence.

  • Reexperiencing: intrusive thoughts, nightmares, reliving trauma, emotional reactivity.
  • Avoidance: avoid thoughts, avoid reminders.
  • Numbing: trauma amnesia, loss of interest, feeling detached, feeling numb, hopelessness.
  • Dysphoric Arousal: difficulty sleeping, irritability, difficulty concentrating
  • Hyper arousal: overly alert, easily startled

Note: This theoretical model is a bit different from other models, e.g. DSM-IV-TR (2000), the Emotional Numbing Model (1998) and the Dysphoria model (2002) as it has a “dysphoric arousal” cluster.

However, the models support each other because they more or less agree on the symptoms. To be diagnosed with PTSD, according to DSM-IV-TR (2000), the person must have experienced both of the following events:

  • The person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others.
  • The person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror. Note: In children, this may be expressed instead by disorganized or agitated behaviour.

Read the newest diagnostic criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (DSM-V criteria, published in May 2013) here.

Image: Truthout