Post Traumatic Stress (PTS), also known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), is a psychological condition that occurs in individuals who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. PTS is characterized by a variety of symptoms, including anxiety, depression, nightmares, flashbacks, and other forms of intrusive thoughts. The condition can be triggered by a wide range of traumatic events, such as war, sexual assault, natural disasters, or accidents. This essay will explore PTS in depth, including its causes, symptoms, and available treatments.

One of the principal causes of PTS is exposure to a traumatic event. This exposure can occur through direct experience, such as being in a life-threatening situation, or by witnessing a traumatic event happening to someone else. Some researchers suggest that certain individuals may be more susceptible to developing PTS based on factors such as genetics, personality, and previous life experiences.

The symptoms of PTS can vary significantly between individuals, but they generally fall into three categories: intrusive thoughts, avoidance behaviors, and hyperarousal. Intrusive thoughts can include flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive memories that disrupt an individual’s daily life. Avoidance behaviors can manifest as avoiding situations or people that trigger traumatic memories or emotions. Hyperarousal symptoms can include irritability, difficulty sleeping, and hypervigilance.

DSM IV Diagnostic criteria

In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association revised the PTSD diagnostic criteria in the fifth edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)1. PTSD is included in a new category in DSM-5, Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders. All of the conditions included in this classification require exposure to a traumatic or stressful event as a diagnostic criterion.

All of the criteria are required for the diagnosis of PTSD. The following text summarizes the diagnostic criteria:

Criterion A: stressor (one required)

The person was exposed to: death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence, in the following way(s):

  • Direct exposure
  • Witnessing the trauma
  • Learning that a relative or close friend was exposed to a trauma
  • Indirect exposure to aversive details of the trauma, usually in the course of professional duties (e.g., first responders, medics)

Criterion B: intrusion symptoms (one required)

The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in the following way(s):

  • Unwanted upsetting memories
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Emotional distress after exposure to traumatic reminders
  • Physical reactivity after exposure to traumatic reminders

Criterion C: avoidance (one required)

Avoidance of trauma-related stimuli after the trauma, in the following way(s):

  • Trauma-related thoughts or feelings
  • Trauma-related external reminders

Criterion D: negative alterations in cognitions and mood (two required)

Negative thoughts or feelings that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way(s):

  • Inability to recall key features of the trauma
  • Overly negative thoughts and assumptions about oneself or the world
  • Exaggerated blame of self or others for causing the trauma
  • Negative affect
  • Decreased interest in activities
  • Feeling isolated
  • Difficulty experiencing positive affect

Criterion E: alterations in arousal and reactivity

Trauma-related arousal and reactivity that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way(s):

  • Irritability or aggression
  • Risky or destructive behavior
  • Hypervigilance
  • Heightened startle reaction
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping

Criterion F: duration (required)

Symptoms last for more than 1 month.

Criterion G: functional significance (required)

Symptoms create distress or functional impairment (e.g., social, occupational).

Criterion H: exclusion (required)

Symptoms are not due to medication, substance use, or other illness.

Two specifications:

  • Dissociative Specification In addition to meeting criteria for diagnosis, an individual experiences high levels of either of the following in reaction to trauma-related stimuli:
    • Depersonalisation. Experience of being an outside observer of or detached from oneself (e.g., feeling as if “this is not happening to me” or one were in a dream).
    • Derealisation. Experience of unreality, distance, or distortion (e.g., “things are not real”).
    • Delayed Specification. Full diagnostic criteria are not met until at least six   months after the trauma(s), although onset of symptoms may occur immediately.


Effective treatment for PTS typically involves a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Medication can be used to manage symptoms such as depression and anxiety, while psychotherapy can help individuals process their traumatic experiences and develop coping mechanisms. 

Two types of psychotherapy that are frequently used in the treatment of PTS are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). CBT aims to help individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors, while EMDR involves using specific eye movements to help process traumatic memories.

Compassionate therapy

In conclusion, Post Traumatic Stress is a profound psychological condition that can occur in individuals who have experienced or witnessed traumatic events. It can manifest itself in a variety of symptoms that can significantly disrupt an individual’s daily life, and therefore, effective treatment is essential. With the right medications and psychotherapy, many individuals with PTS can learn to manage their symptoms and lead fulfilling lives.

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