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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.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming for the Treatment of Adults with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder, or Depression: A Review of Clinical Effectiveness and Guidelines [Internet]

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), general anxiety disorder (GAD), and major depression disorder (MDD) are common debilitating disorders with a lifetime prevalence rate of approximately 12%, 2.6%, and 8% of Canadians, respectively. In addition to pharmacologic treatment, different treatment modalities such as psychotherapy, electroconvulsive therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation, vagus nerve stimulation, deep brain stimulation, and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), have been suggested for these disorders.

Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for Adults with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Review of the Clinical Effectiveness [Internet]

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a chronic psychiatric condition that develops following an exceptionally traumatic event. Core symptoms of PTSD include re-experiencing the trauma (for example, through flashbacks and nightmares), avoidance of reminders of trauma, and hyperarousal (for example, feeling irritable or angry, startling easily, or experiencing difficulty sleeping or concentrating). Lifetime prevalence rates of PTSD have been estimated as 9.2% in Canada and ranging from 6.8% to 12.3% in the United States. Certain groups of people, such as those exposed to military combat, are at a higher risk of developing PTSD; lifetime prevalence of PTSD in Vietnam war veterans has been reported at 18.7%, and up to 18% of Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans have experienced PTSD.

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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.

Psychological debriefing for preventing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

This review concerns the efficacy of single session psychological "debriefing" in reducing psychological distress and preventing the development of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after traumatic events. Psychological debriefing is either equivalent to, or worse than, control or educational interventions in preventing or reducing the severity of PTSD, depression, anxiety and general psychological morbidity. There is some suggestion that it may increase the risk of PTSD and depression. The routine use of single session debriefing given to non selected trauma victims is not supported. No evidence has been found that this procedure is effective.

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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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