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What Is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder?

Arieh Y. Shalev, MD

Published: January 3, 2001

Article Abstract

Our understanding of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has increased significantly over the last 2 decades. Although the cause of the condition is usually easy to determine in individual patients, the symptoms of PTSD are diverse and a mixture of psychological processes are involved. This article presents a broad overview of PTSD, including its definition according to DSM-IV and ICD-10 diagnostic criteria, and its clinical course with reference to its association with depression and other mental disorders. The article also briefly reviews the assessment of patients and considers physiologic features such as responses to startle stimuli that appear to be useful in diagnosing PTSD and in differentiating it from other anxiety disorders and depression. Finally, a brief overview of the treatment of PTSD is given, including psychological and biological treatment options.

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