Outcomes of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

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The typical reaction to a life-threatening experience is one of distress, anxiety, and fear. This is characteristic of the basic survival instinct; these emotions enhance the individual’s memory of the traumatic experience and thus serve to help in the recognition and avoidance of similarly dangerous situations in the future. In a significant minority of individuals, however, the natural reaction to trauma becomes uncontrollably and disastrously intensified, resulting in the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD varies in severity and duration between individuals, often relating to personal characteristics and the nature of the trauma to which a person is subjected. However, several factors, namely, chronicity, impairment, comorbidity, and somatization, are significantly related to and can influence the course of PTSD and subsequent outcome. This article briefly reviews each of these factors.

J Clin Psychiatry 2001;62(suppl 17):55-59