Posttraumatic stress disorder

This syndrome is a delayed response following exposure to a stressful experience of an exceptionally threatening nature which is quite outside the range of everyday experience and which is likely to cause distress to almost everyone. There is a perceived danger of death or severe physical trauma but the injuries actually sustained may be quite trivial. The experiences that evoke the response include natural disaster, road traffic accidents, military or terrorist activity, and being the victim of torture or rape. The disorder has been estimated to occur in up to one third of patients involved in road traffic accidents.36,37

There may be a delay between the traumatic event and the onset of symptoms which ranges from a few weeks up to six months. The typical symptoms include recurrent intrusive memories of the event ("flashbacks"), disturbed sleep, nightmares of the event, emotional blunting, avoidance of cues that evoke memories of the original trauma, depression, irritability, and autonomic arousal.

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