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Definition and diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder is diagnostically classed as an anxiety disorder. A DSM-IV (APA 1994) diagnosis of PTSD is made after a person has been exposed to an extreme traumatic stressor involving direct personal experience of an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others. Also, at the time of the trauma the person felt intense fear, helplessness or horror. The person then later develops three persistent clusters of symptoms: one symptom of re-experiencing the trauma, three symptoms of avoidance of trauma-related stimuli and two symptoms of increased arousal. The symptoms must be present for more than one month and cause significant impairment of functioning.

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