We all experience events of intense stress from time to time, but some of them may become a traumatic event without precedent with long-lasting consequences in our psychiatric health. Posttraumatic stress disorder is a complex syndrome that results from exposure to life-threatening situations, sexual assault, crude violence, repulsive details of child abuse, scenes of war, walking over dead civilians, and similar details associated with graphic violence. It is either caused by prolonged exposition to these events or a single extremely graphic scene, and it may be a personal experience or a referred event detailed by a friend or family member.
Posttraumatic stress disorder is not only a psychological problem. It has a neurobiological component to it, and it becomes a psychiatric alteration with abnormal brain chemistry in different areas of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, the corpus callosum, the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, and other regions of the brain. According to the DSM-V, there are a series of diagnostic criteria that describe the signs and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorders, and the symptoms should be assessed by a specialist before any attempt of diagnosis is made.
The most important signs and symptoms to make the diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder are as follows:
Patients with posttraumatic stress disorders have a series of involuntary and recurrent memories of the traumatic event or associated with it. These memories can be either induced by a trigger or spontaneous; they are intrusive because they invade the consciousness and may affect the normal flow of thoughts or memories. In children younger than 6 years old, they may not demonstrate or report these intrusive memories, but the traumatic event will appear or somewhat influence their gameplay and recreational activities.