Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a fairly recent entity. In 1972, American psychiatrist Shatan published in the New York Times an article on Post-Vietnam Syndrome. This syndrome was included in 1980 in DSM, the Manual of Psychiatric Diagnosis.
The essential feature of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the development of characteristic symptoms following exposure to one or more traumatic events (a shocking, scary, or dangerous event).
It is natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation. Fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to help defend against danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a typical reaction meant to protect a person from harm. Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after trauma, yet most people recover from initial symptoms naturally. Those who continue to experience problems may be diagnosed with PTSD. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they are not in danger.
Signs and Symptoms
PTSD can occur at any age, beginning after the first year of life. Symptoms usually begin within the first 3 months after the trauma, although there may be a delay of months or even years before criteria for the diagnosis are met.
The symptoms of PTSD and the relative predominance of different symptoms may vary over time. Duration of the symptoms also varies, with complete recovery within 3 months occurring in approximately one-half of adults, while some individuals remain symptomatic for longer than 12 months and sometimes for more than 50 years. Symptom recurrence and intensification may occur in response to reminders of the original trauma, ongoing life stressors, or newly experienced traumatic events. For older individuals, declining health, worsening cognitive functioning, and social isolation may exacerbate PTSD symptoms.