Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Core diagnostic criteria for PTSD


  • A life threatening event outside normal human experience
  • Re-experience of the trauma
  • Intrusive memories
  • Dreams/nightmares
  • Flashbacks (sense of reliving the event)
  • Distress at exposure to events resembling the trauma
  • Avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma
  • Evidence of increased arousal:
    • Sleep disturbance
    • Irritability
    • Hypervigilance
    • Exaggerated startle response

Some points about PTSD

  • Lifelong disabling disorder with chronic relapsing course
  • May present with dysfunctional social behaviour:
    • breakdown of stable relationships
  • Other psychiatric disorders, depression, alcohol abuse complicate
  • No single treatment effective
  • Families become second victims & must be included in treatment
  • Partial PTSD seen after accidents:
    • When it does follow civilian accidents more likely if concomitant brain damage or premorbid personality disorders or anxiety / depression

Content by Dr Íomhar O' Sullivan. Last review 21/02/23.