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What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

The person was exposed to: death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence, as follows: (one required)
  • Direct exposure
  • Witnessing the trauma
  • Learning that a relative or close friend was exposed to a trauma
  • Indirect exposure to aversive details of the trauma, usually in the course of professional duties (e.g., first responders, medics)
All of the criteria are required for the diagnosis of PTSD. The following text summarizes the diagnostic criteria:

Intrusion symptoms

The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in the following way (s):
  • Unwanted upsetting memories
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Emotional distress after exposure to traumatic reminders
  • Physical reactivity after exposure to traumatic reminders


Avoidance of trauma-related stimuli after the trauma, in the following way(s):
  • Trauma-related thoughts or feelings
  • Trauma-related external reminders

Negative Alterations in Cognitions and Mood

Negative thoughts or feelings that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way(s):
  • Inability to recall key features of the trauma
  • Overly negative thoughts and assumptions about oneself or the world
  • Exaggerated blame of self or others for causing the trauma
  • Negative affect
  • Feeling isolated
  • Difficulty experiencing positive affect

Alterations in Arousal and Reactivity

Trauma-related arousal and reactivity that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way(s):
  • Irritability or aggression
  • Risky or destructive behavior
  • Hypervigilance
  • Heightened startle reaction
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping


  • Symptoms last for more than 1 month.

Functional Significance

  • Symptoms create distress or functional impairment (e.g., social, occupational).


  • Symptoms are not due to medication, substance use, or other illness.