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Overview of Trauma- and Stress-Related Disorders

By John H. Greist, MD, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health; Distinguished Senior Scientist, Madison Institute of Medicine

Trauma-and stress-related disorders result from exposure to a traumatic or stressful event. Specific disorders include acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder. These disorders cause similar symptoms but differ in how long they last. Acute stress disorder typically begins immediately after the event and lasts from 3 days to 1 month. Posttraumatic stress disorder lasts for more than 1 month. It may develop as a continuation of acute stress disorder or develop separately up to 6 months after the event.

These disorders are no longer considered anxiety disorders because many affected people do not have anxiety. They have other symptoms instead. For example, they may be unable to experience pleasure, become aggressive, or feel restless and discontent, angry, numb, or disconnected from themselves.