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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

An anxiety disorder that develops in reaction to physical injury or severe mental or emotional distress, such as military combat, violent assault, natural disaster, or other life-threatening events.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

About PTSD

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that some people get after seeing or living through a dangerous event.

When in danger, it's natural to feel afraid. This fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to prepare to defend against the danger or to avoid it. This "fight-or-flight" response is a healthy reaction meant to protect a person from harm. But in PTSD, this reaction is changed or damaged. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they're no longer in danger.

Who gets PTSD?

Anyone can get PTSD at any age. This includes war veterans and survivors of physical and sexual assault, abuse, accidents, disasters, and many other serious events.

Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. Some people get PTSD after a friend or family member experiences danger or is harmed. The sudden, unexpected death of a loved one can also cause PTSD...Read more about PTSD NIH - National Institute of Mental Health

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: The Management of PTSD in Adults and Children in Primary and Secondary Care

This guideline has been developed to advise on the treatment and management of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The guideline recommendations have been developed by a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals, PTSD sufferers and guideline methodologists after careful consideration of the best available evidence. (The term ‘PTSD sufferer’ was chosen for use in the guideline on the basis of a survey conducted by sufferer members of the Guideline Development Group. People with the disorder were presented with a range of options such as ‘people with PTSD’, ‘patients with PTSD’ and ‘PTSD sufferer’ and asked to indicate which term they preferred; ‘PTSD sufferer’ was the term favoured by the majority.) It is intended that the guideline will be useful to clinicians and service commissioners in providing and planning high-quality care for those with PTSD while also emphasising the importance of the experience of care for patients and their families.

Potential biomarkers of cognitive behavior-therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder: a systematic review

Bibliographic details: Goncalves R, Lages AC, Rodrigues H, Pedrozo AL, Freire Coutinho ES, Neylan T, Figueira I, Ventura P.  Potential biomarkers of cognitive behavior-therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder: a systematic review. Revista de Psiquiatria Clinica 2011; 38(4): 155-160 Available from: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S0101-60832011000400008&script=sci_abstract

Efficacite du "debriefing psychologique" dans la prevention des troubles psychologiques post-traumatiques [Efficiency of psychological debriefing in preventing post-traumatic stress disorders]

BACKGROUND: Traumatic events are frequently followed by an acute stress reaction that may develop into a post-traumatic stress disorder. An intervention called psychological debriefing has been proposed to prevent these disorders. Although this method is widely used at present, its preventive effect is controversial. This article consist in a review of the studies which evaluated psychological debriefing efficiency in the prevention of post-traumatic stress disorder and associated disorders in adults.

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Summaries for consumers

Sports and games for post‐traumatic stress disorder

Traumatic events evoke strong feelings of fear, helplessness and anxiety. Many who experience a traumatic event overcome these strong emotions however a proportion does not and the emotional reaction may progress into Post‐Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Pharmacological and psychological interventions are well known treatments for PTSD but little is known of the use of sports and games for the treatment of PTSD. This review sought to examine studies using sports and games to alleviate symptoms of PTSD.

Cancer-Related Post-traumatic Stress (PDQ®): Patient Version

Expert-reviewed information summary about post-traumatic stress and related symptoms in cancer patients, cancer survivors, and their family members. Assessment and treatment of these symptoms are discussed.

Multiple session early psychological interventions for prevention of post‐traumatic stress disorder

Traumatic events can have a significant impact on individuals', families' and communities' abilities to cope. In the past, single session interventions such as psychological debriefing were widely used with the aim of preventing continuing psychological difficulties. However, previous reviews have found that single session individual interventions have not been effective at preventing post ‐traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A range of other forms of intervention have been developed to try to prevent individuals exposed to trauma developing PTSD. This review evaluated the results of 11 studies that tested a diverse range of psychological interventions aimed at preventing PTSD. The results did not find any evidence to support the use of an intervention offered to everyone. There was some evidence that multiple session interventions may result in worse outcome than no intervention for some individuals. Further research is required to evaluate the most effective ways of providing psychological help in the early stages after a traumatic event.

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More about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Photo of an adult

Also called: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Other terms to know:
Anxiety, Anxiety Disorders

Keep up with systematic reviews on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder:


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