Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a chronic anxiety disorder caused by seeing or experiencing traumatic events that are exceptionally threatening or catastrophic nature, and likely to cause pervasive distress in almost anyone. PTSD does not, therefore, develop following those upsetting situations that are described as ‘traumatic’ in everyday language, for example, divorce, loss of job, or failing an exam. The symptoms of PTSD include re-experiencing the event through flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of stimuli which remind the victim of the traumatic event, and increased arousal, such as anxiety, anger or hypervigilance. A formal diagnosis of PTSD requires these symptoms to persist for at least a month and to cause significant disruption in one’s personal and/or professional life. The person with PTSD has clinically significant distress and/or functional impairment. PTSD is a disorder that can affect people of all ages. Around 25–30% of people experiencing a traumatic event may go on to develop PTSD.
The earliest description of PTSD in the modern era was from the Civil War (1861–1865): ‘‘irritable heart’’ or ‘‘soldiers’ heart’’ (Da Costa, 1871). According to a paper published in 1876 by Mendez DaCosta, MD, Civil War combat veterans with ‘‘soldiers’ heart’’ had startle responses, hyper-vigilance, and heart arrhythmia, thus the first modern description of PTSD had a physiologic description. Current term PTSD was introduced in the 1980s in the United States and Western Europe. In DSM-III, multiple terms were applied to what is now called PTSD, many of which allude to a stress reaction and the biological effects on the heart, and presumably, the brain.