Essential Features of PTSD

The following is taken from the American Psychiatric Association’s “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Classifying Mental Disorders.”

The essential feature of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is the development of characteristic symptoms involving exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor involving direct personal experience of an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury, or other threat to physical integrity of another person or learning about unexpected or violent death, serious harm, or threat of death or injury experienced by a family member or other close associate.

Traumatic events that are experienced directly include, but are not limited to, military combat, violent personal assault (sexual assault, assault, physical attack, robbery, mugging), being kidnapped, being taken hostage, terrorist attack, torture, incarceration as a prisoner of war or in a concentration camp, natural or manmade disasters, severe automobile accidents, or being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.


  1. Reexperiencing the trauma
  2. Emotional Numbing
  3. Increased Irritability
  4. Increased arousal:
    1. Irritability or outbursts of anger
    2. Difficulty concentrating
    3. Hypervigilance
    4. Exaggerated startle response
  5. Develop conflicts with people;
  6. Abuse alcohol or other drugs
  7. Isolates him/herself


  1. Has the Wounded Warrior experienced, witnessed, or learned of an extreme traumatic event?
  2. Do they avoid being reminded of this experience by staying away from certain places, people, or activities?
  3. Do they lose interest in activities that were once important or enjoyable?
  4. Do they begin to feel more isolated or distant from other people?
  5. Do they find it hard to have love or affection for other people?
  6. Do they find themselves thinking that there is no point in planning for the future?
  7. Do they have more trouble than usual falling asleep or staying asleep?
  8. Do they become jumpy or get easily startled by ordinary noises or movements?
  9. Do they feel bad about themselves or feel that they are a failure or have let themselves or others down?
  10. Do they have trouble concentrating on things like reading the newspaper or watching television?
  11. Do they move or speak so slowly that other people notice…OR…the opposite, being so fidgety or restless that they have been moving around a lot more than usual?
  12. Do they feel down, depressed, or hopeless?

Associated Features

There are “associated” features and disorders: PTSD patients experience increased rates of Major Depressive-Compulsive disorder, Generalized Anxiety disorder, Social Phobia, specific phobia, and Bipolar Disorder. These disorders can precede, follow, or emerge concurrently with the onset of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.