post-traumatic stress disorder

post-traumatic stress disorder [pōst′trô mat′ik]
n.
a condition characterized by recurring and, often, disabling symptoms of anxiety, depression, etc., that later affects some persons who have experienced a traumatic event or situation, esp. combat

* * *

Psychological reaction occurring after a highly stressing event, characterized by depression, anxiety, flashbacks, recurrent nightmares, and avoidance of reminders of the event.

The traumatic events can include automobile accidents, rape or assault, military combat, torture, incarceration in a concentration camp, and such natural disasters as floods, fires, or earthquakes. Long-term effects include marital and family problems, difficulties at work, and abuse of alcohol and other drugs. Psychotherapy, including group therapy, is used in treating the disorder.

* * *

also called  post-traumatic stress syndrome 

      emotional condition that sometimes follows a traumatic event, particularly an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious bodily injury to oneself or others and that creates intense feelings of fear, helplessness, or horror. The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder include the reexperiencing of the trauma either through upsetting thoughts or memories or, in extreme cases, through a flashback in which the trauma is relived at full emotional intensity. People with PTSD often report a general feeling of emotional numbness, experience increased anxiety and vigilance, and avoid reminders of the trauma, such as specific situations, thoughts, and feelings. It is normal to experience such reactions to some extent following trauma, and they are not considered symptoms of PTSD unless they last for at least one month or have a delayed onset. People with PTSD can also suffer from other psychological problems, particularly depression, anxiety, and drug abuse.

      The experience of traumatic stress is very common, and an estimated 10 percent of women and 5 percent of men experience PTSD at some point in their life. The risk for developing PTSD varies greatly with different kinds of trauma. Women are especially likely to develop PTSD following rape or other forms of sexual assault. Combat exposure has been found to be the most common cause of PTSD in men in the United States. A major disaster or traumatic event can cause PTSD on a large scale. For example, in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, 7.5 percent of New Yorkers who lived in Manhattan below 110th Street—that is, in the general area of the World Trade Center—were found to be suffering from PTSD. The disorder is most likely to develop among people who suffer the greatest exposure to the trauma, who have the least social support, and who fail to allow themselves to experience their difficult feelings and find a new way of eventually understanding their experience.

      Studies employing positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (magnetic resonance) (MRI) have shown that people with symptoms of PTSD have altered activity in the brain, primarily in the regions of the medial prefrontal cortex, thalamus, and anterior cingulate gyrus. This altered activity may facilitate and reinforce the brain's ability to recall specific traumatic memories, thereby making it difficult for people with PTSD to break the pattern of negative memory recall.

      About 12.5 percent of people with PTSD have increased levels of a kinase (a type of regulatory enzyme) called CDK5 (cyclin-dependent kinase 5). Normally, CDK5 works with other proteins in nerve cells to regulate brain development, and its absence has been shown to facilitate the elimination of memories associated with fear. In people with PTSD, the elevated levels of CDK5 may interfere with and prevent fear-extinction and delay the ability to control emotional states and reactions when a traumatic memory is recalled.

      Some professionals believe that PTSD following a traumatic event can be reduced by early psychological interventions that encourage a sharing of emotional experiences concerning the event. However, scientific research has shown that these interventions offer little help and may even exacerbate the disorder. Once an individual has developed PTSD, the two most effective treatments are antidepressant medication and trauma reexposure. Trauma reexposure is a form of directive psychotherapy that involves encouraging the victim to recount the trauma and, through gradual reexposure to the trauma in memory, change his or her emotional reactions in an effort to come to a new understanding of the experience.

Robert E. Emery
 

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • post-traumatic stress disorder — [pōst′trô mat′ik] n. a condition characterized by recurring and, often, disabling symptoms of anxiety, depression, etc., that later affects some persons who have experienced a traumatic event or situation, esp. combat …   English World dictionary

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder — A common anxiety disorder that develops after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Family members of victims also can develop the disorder. PTSD can occur in people of any age,… …   Medical dictionary

  • post-traumatic stress disorder — (ˈ)pōs(t)ˌ… noun also post traumatic stress syndrome : a psychological reaction that occurs after a highly stressing event (as wartime combat, physical violence, or a natural disaster) and is usually characterized by depression, anxiety,… …   Useful english dictionary

  • post-traumatic stress disorder — noun a mental disorder occurring after a traumatic event which is outside an individual s normal experience, characterised by such symptoms as withdrawal, depression, an inclination to relive the traumatic experiences, and a sensitivity to sudden …   Australian English dictionary

  • post-traumatic stress disorder — N UNCOUNT Post traumatic stress disorder is a mental illness that can develop after someone has been involved in a very bad experience such as a war. [MEDICAL] …   English dictionary

  • post-traumatic stress disorder — post traumatic stress dis.order n [U] medical PTSD a mental illness which can develop after a very bad experience such as a plane crash …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • post-traumatic stress disorder — post traumatic stress dis,order noun singular or uncount MEDICAL a mental illness caused by having or seeing a very frightening experience, for example fighting in a war …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • post-traumatic stress disorder — noun Date: 1980 a psychological reaction occurring after experiencing a highly stressing event (as wartime combat, physical violence, or a natural disaster) that is usually characterized by depression, anxiety, flashbacks, recurrent nightmares,… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • post traumatic stress disorder — disorder characterized by illusions that a past traumatic event is recurring and severe reaction to stress inducing stimuli (often affects veterans and victims of violence), PTSD …   English contemporary dictionary

  • post-traumatic stress disorder — PTSD an anxiety disorder caused by the major personal stress of a serious or frightening event, such as an injury, assault, rape, or exposure to warfare or a disaster involving many casualties. The onset is at least one month after the traumatic… …   The new mediacal dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.