Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric condition that can manifest in individuals who have undergone or witnessed a traumatic event. These events encompass a wide range of experiences, including serious accidents, natural disasters, acts of terrorism, wartime experiences, sexual assault, threats of violence, or significant injury. It’s noteworthy that PTSD can also develop indirectly, such as when individuals learn about traumatic events through family members. Additionally, repeated exposure to trauma, as observed in professions like law enforcement, crime scene investigation, or emergency medical services, can also contribute to the development of PTSD.

PTSD affects approximately 3.5% of adults in the United States annually, with one in eleven individuals receiving a diagnosis of PTSD at some point in their lifetime. Women are affected by PTSD at twice the rate of men.


The person was exposed to death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence, in the following way:

  • Direct exposure to trauma
  • Witnessing the trauma
  • Learning that a family member or close friend underwent trauma
  • Indirect exposure to details of trauma, usually in the course of professional duties (detectives, crime scene investigators)

Intrusive thoughts

The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in the following way:

  • Repeated, unwanted and upsetting memories
  • Nightmares or distressing dreams
  • Flashbacks of the traumatic event
  • Emotional distress after exposure to traumatic reminders
  • Physical reactivity after exposure to traumatic reminders (fast heartbeats, Shortness of breath)


Avoidance of trauma-related stimuli in the following way:

  • Avoiding people, places, activities, objects and situations that may trigger distressing memories
  • Avoid remembering or thinking about the traumatic event
  • Commonly resist talking about what happened

Negative alterations in cognitions and mood

Negative thoughts or feelings that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way:

  • Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma
  • Overly negative thoughts and feelings leading to distorted views of oneself or the world “I am a bad person”
  • Exaggerated blame of self or others for causing the trauma
  • Ongoing fear, guilt, shame, anger or horror
  • Decreased interest in activities that were once enjoyable (anhedonia)
  • Feeling isolated
  • Difficulty experiencing positive or good emotions

Alterations in arousal and reactivity

Trauma-related arousal and reactivity that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way:

  • Irritability or having angry outbursts
  • Acting in a self-destructive way or taking on risky behavior
  • Hypervigilance (watching ones surroundings in a suspecting way and being overly watchful)
  • Heightened startle response (someone jumps when the door slams)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping (waking up frequently, waking up in cold sweats)


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