What Is PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an emotional, prolonged and sometimes delayed reaction to an intensely stressful event. The stressful event may be experienced first-hand or witnessed. Following the event, patients may experience intrusive memories that lead them to re-experience aspects of the stressful event, such as thorough flashbacks or nightmares. This would then lead to negative changes in the thoughts and mood, along with certain physical reactions such as being easily aroused, startled or frightened. As a result, PTSD patients try to avoid any reminder of the event. 


The term was coined after studies of veterans coming back from war and is known by many names in the past, including ‘shell shock’ or ‘combat fatigue’. The intensity of the PTSD symptoms varies from person to person, with some people experiencing more flashbacks whilst others might have more somatic symptoms. The symptoms also change in intensity over time. Around one-third of patients recover at one-year follow up, and one-third of patients would still experience symptoms 10 years after exposure to the trauma.

[¹]Jones, E., Vermaas, R.H., McCartney, H., Beech, C., Palmer, I., Hyams, K. and Wessely, S., 2003. Flashbacks and post-traumatic stress disorder: the genesis of a 20th-century diagnosis. The British Journal of Psychiatry182(2), pp.158-163.

[²]Kessler, R.C., Sonnega, A., Bromet, E., Hughes, M. and Nelson, C.B., 1995. Posttraumatic stress disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey. Archives of general psychiatry52(12), pp.1048-1060.

Information provided by: Dr Keith Hariman, Specialist in Psychiatry, OT&P Healthcare

Please note that all medical articles featured on our website have been reviewed by qualified healthcare doctors. The articles are for general information only and are not medical opinions nor should the contents be used to replace the need for a personal consultation with a qualified medical professional on the reader's medical condition.

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