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What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Stephen M. Raffle, M.D.

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Curriculum Vitae

By Stephen M. Raffle, M.D.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric condition understood to be an anxiety disorder arising as a result of an emotionally overwhelming experience usually accompanied by a symptom complex which, for example, might include nightmares that recapitulate the traumatic event, and recurrent intrusive thoughts about the event. In a forensic psychiatry practice, PTSD is a common diagnosis. PTSD is often erroneously diagnosed by a treating doctor merely because an individual has been exposed to a situation that might cause PTSD. Whereas one individual may experience a debilitating PTSD which lingers for many years, another person exposed to the same trauma may not. The event does not define the PTSD. Further, when there is no PTSD, there may be the presence of another emotional response to a traumatic event. Any psychiatric condition must be accurately diagnosed in order for there to be effective treatment.

Not all emotional traumas cause PTSD. Symptom syndromes which may arise from a traumatic emotional experience are:

  • emotional distress
  • emotional numbing
  • phobias
  • avoidance (e.g. walking across the street to avoid a reminder of the traumatic event)
  • depression
  • paranoia
  • avoidant behavior
  • nightmares
  • obsessive thinking
  • “I can’t stop thinking about it”
  • irritability
  • change in personality

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this website does not constitute legal or medical advice. Readers should consult with their own legal counsel or physician for the most current information and to obtain professional legal advice or medical advice before acting on any of the information presented.

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