Posttraumatic Stress

Published in: Encyclopedia of Mental Health, v. 3, 1998, p. 209-218

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 1997

by Lisa H. Jaycox, Edna B. Foa

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Posttraumatic stress is a set of psychological and physical symptoms that follow a traumatic experience. In some cases, these symptoms persist beyond the immediate aftermath of the trauma and develop into Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), an anxiety disorder that includes symptoms of arousal, avoidance, and reexperiencing, lasts for more than 1 month, and causes significant impairment in social or occupational functioning. This article discusses the stress symptoms that commonly follow trauma and describes PTSD and its prevalence. The theories underlying the development and maintenance of symptoms are discussed along with the treatments used for PTSD and their efficacy.

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