Medical Definition of Post-traumatic stress

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Post-traumatic stress: An anxiety disorder that develops in some individuals who have had major traumatic experiences. The person is typically numb at first but later has symptoms including depression, excessive irritability, guilt (for having survived while others died), recurrent nightmares, flashbacks to the traumatic scene, and overreactions to sudden noises.

Post-traumatic stress became known in the 70s due to the adjustment problems of some Vietnam veterans. It was first listed as a diagnostic category by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980. Although the name "post-traumatic stress" was new, the condition was not. It was known as "shell shock" in World War I and "battle fatigue" during World War II.

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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