Post-traumatic stress disorder


00:00 / 00:00



Post-traumatic stress disorder

Psychological disorders

Mood disorders

Major depressive disorder


Bipolar disorder

Seasonal affective disorder

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder

Anxiety disorders

Generalized anxiety disorder

Social anxiety disorder

Panic disorder



Obsessive-compulsive disorders

Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Body focused repetitive disorders

Body dysmorphic disorder

Stress-related disorders and abuse

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Physical and sexual abuse

Psychotic disorders

Schizoaffective disorder

Schizophreniform disorder

Delusional disorder


Cognitive and dissociative disorders



Dissociative disorders

Eating disorders

Anorexia nervosa

Bulimia nervosa

Personality disorders

Cluster A personality disorders

Cluster B personality disorders

Cluster C personality disorders

Somatoform and factitious disorders

Somatic symptom disorder

Factitious disorder

Substance use disorders and drugs of abuse

Tobacco dependence

Opioid dependence

Cannabis dependence

Cocaine dependence

Alcohol use disorder

Sleep disorders


Nocturnal enuresis


Night terrors

Narcolepsy (NORD)

Sexual dysfunction disorders

Erectile dysfunction

Male hypoactive sexual desire disorder

Orgasmic dysfunction

Female sexual interest and arousal disorder

Genito-pelvic pain and penetration disorder

Pediatric disorders

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Disruptive, impulse control, and conduct disorders

Learning disability

Fetal alcohol syndrome

Tourette syndrome

Autism spectrum disorder

Rett syndrome

Shaken baby syndrome



Psychiatric emergencies


Serotonin syndrome

Neuroleptic malignant syndrome

Psychological disorders review

Mood disorders: Pathology review

Amnesia, dissociative disorders and delirium: Pathology review

Personality disorders: Pathology review

Eating disorders: Pathology review

Psychological sleep disorders: Pathology review

Psychiatric emergencies: Pathology review

Drug misuse, intoxication and withdrawal: Hallucinogens: Pathology review

Malingering, factitious disorders and somatoform disorders: Pathology review

Anxiety disorders, phobias and stress-related disorders: Pathology Review

Trauma- and stress-related disorders: Pathology review

Schizophrenia spectrum disorders: Pathology review

Drug misuse, intoxication and withdrawal: Stimulants: Pathology review

Drug misuse, intoxication and withdrawal: Alcohol: Pathology review

Developmental and learning disorders: Pathology review

Childhood and early-onset psychological disorders: Pathology review


Post-traumatic stress disorder


0 / 9 complete

USMLE® Step 1 questions

0 / 2 complete

High Yield Notes

3 pages


Post-traumatic stress disorder

of complete


USMLE® Step 1 style questions USMLE

of complete

A 23-year-old woman comes to her primary care physician to evaluate recurrent nightmares. The patient was sexually assaulted two weeks ago, and since that time, reports recurrent nightmares surrounding the event. She states, “Ever since the incident, I can’t return to campus. The thought of being back at school after what happened is unbearable.” The patient avoids thinking about the incident and feels depressed, irritable, and distracted throughout the day. The patient has not had any suicidal ideation or thoughts. The patient has no past medical history. Which of the following is the most likely diagnosis?  

External References

First Aid








Diagnostic criteria

post-traumatic stress disorder p. 587

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) p. 585, 587

dissociative identity disorder p. 581

drug therapy for p. 596

prazosin for p. 245

SSRIs for p. 599

venlafaxine p. 599


Content Reviewers

Rishi Desai, MD, MPH


Tanner Marshall, MS

Post-traumatic stress disorder, also called PTSD, happens when some memory of a past traumatic event—like war or sexual assault—causes recurrent mental and physical distress.

Now the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5th edition or the DSM 5 categorizes PTSD as a “trauma-and-stressor-related-disorder” that happens when the symptoms of an acute stress response persist for over a month.

The main symptoms are psychological ones, for example someone might re-experience their trauma through nightmares, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts, but these can lead to behavioral changes as well.

Somebody might start to avoid environments and situations that remind them of their trauma and feel a sense of hypervigilance where they are constantly on guard or hyperarousal where they have this exaggerated startle response to the smallest of triggers.

Not surprisingly, all of these thoughts and behaviours can lead to trouble sleeping and general irritability, which can lead to angry outbursts.

Interestingly, this pattern is different for young children who are less likely to show distress, but instead they might use play to express their memories, sometimes acting out scenes that trouble them.

Whether or not someone develops PTSD in response to trauma is determined by a number of different factors.

For example, it’s clear that interpersonal trauma, like rape or violent muggings, are more likely to result in PTSD than accidents or environmental disasters.

In addition, people that go through extreme trauma as children are more likely to develop PTSD in response to other traumas faced in their adult life.

Having said that, if someone manages to develop effective coping strategies for trauma including having a social support network, then that can help with future traumas as well.

As far as causes go, there are some clues about biological factors related to development of PTSD.


  1. "Robbins Basic Pathology" Elsevier (2017)
  2. "Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine" McGraw Hill Education/ Medical (2018)
  3. "Pathophysiology of Disease: An Introduction to Clinical Medicine 8E" McGraw-Hill Education / Medical (2018)
  4. "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5 )" American Psychiatric Assoc Pub (2013)
  5. "Post-traumatic stress disorder" BMJ (2015)
  6. "Posttraumatic Growth as a Response to Natural Disasters in Children and Adolescents" Current Psychiatry Reports (2018)
  7. "Effects of trauma exposure on the cortisol response to dexamethasone administration in PTSD and major depressive disorder" Psychoneuroendocrinology (2004)

Copyright © 2023 Elsevier, except certain content provided by third parties

Cookies are used by this site.

USMLE® is a joint program of the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME). COMLEX-USA® is a registered trademark of The National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners, Inc. NCLEX-RN® is a registered trademark of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc. Test names and other trademarks are the property of the respective trademark holders. None of the trademark holders are endorsed by nor affiliated with Osmosis or this website.