Post-traumatic stress disorder is a significant mental health issue affecting thousands of people all around the world. It is commonly found in people who have survived trauma, such as war veterans or survivors of abuse (American Psychiatric Association, 2015). The prevalence of PTSD in the United States is 3.6% among adults, and the disorder is more common among women (5.2%) than among men (“Post-traumatic stress disorder,” 2017). The condition can lead to severe impairment of the individual’s quality of life since it affects their sleep, anxiety levels, and daily functioning (“Post-traumatic stress disorder,” 2017). Consequently, it is essential for care providers to be able to recognize the symptoms of PTSD and refer their patients for help promptly to avoid complications.
PTSD comes with a specific set of symptoms, which means that it has clear diagnostic criteria to be used by care providers. Based on the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) by the American Psychiatric Association (2013), these criteria include exposure to trauma and the presence of symptoms, such as recurrent distressing memories, dreams, dissociative reactions, prolonged psychological distress, and marked physiological responses. In addition, persons with PTSD may avoid the stimuli associated with the traumatic event, experience negative alterations in cognitions, arousal, reactivity and moods in relation to the traumatic event (APA, 2013). Finally, the duration of PTSD symptoms is typically over one month, and the disturbance causes distress or impairment in functioning while not being attributable to substance use or another medical condition (APA, 2013). The manual notes that symptoms may vary from one case to the other, but the criterion of experienced trauma is pivotal to the diagnosis (APA, 2013). This trauma can include near-death experienced or witnessed death, sexual violence, serious injury, and other significant distressing occurrences (APA, 2013). Lastly, it is crucial to note that PTSD can also include various physiological responses associated with distressing experiences or thoughts. These include irritability, sleep disturbances, elevated heart rate, hyperventilation, exaggerated startle response, and similar symptoms of arousal and reactivity (APA, 2013). To avoid negative consequences and support quality of life, individuals with PTSD should be referred to mental health specialists.
Categories of PTSD vary in terms of severity of symptoms and their nature. There are four recognized types of PTSD: uncomplicated, comorbid, complex, and dissociative (APA, 2013). Individuals with comorbid or complex PTSD typically have a higher risk of other mental health conditions that impair their functioning, whereas dissociative PTSD can complicate the treatment process (APA, 2013). Complex PTSD is particularly prominent among survivors of long-term trauma, such as victims held in concentration camps, prisoners of war, victims of child exploitation and human trafficking, and other individuals who had similar, prolonged experiences. Comorbid PTSD occurs when a person diagnosed with PTSD also suffers from another mental health condition. Comorbid PTSD is relatively widespread since people with PTSD are at a high risk of developing other mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and other conditions (APA, 2013). This suggests that individuals with a history of PTSD should also be screened for other mental health problems regularly.
Overall, PTSD is a serious mental health issue that can impair a person’s functioning and deteriorate their quality of life. It has a relatively high prevalence in the United States, particularly among women, and develops on the basis of traumatic experiences. Understanding the diagnostic criteria and categorization of PTSD can help care providers to identify at-risk patients and refer them for mental health services.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). American Psychiatric Association.
Post-traumatic stress disorder. (2017). National Institute of Mental Health. Web.