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Overview of Trauma and Stressor-Related Disorders

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

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Patient Education

Trauma- and stressor-related disorders involve exposure to a traumatic or stressful event. Specific disorders include acute stress disorder (ASD—see Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD—see Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)). ASD and PTSD are similar except that ASD typically begins immediately after the trauma and lasts from 3 days to 1 mo, whereas PTSD lasts for > 1 mo, either as a continuation of ASD or as a separate occurrence up to 6 mo after the trauma.

Previously, trauma- and stressor-related disorders were considered anxiety disorders (see Overview of Anxiety Disorders). However, they are now considered distinct because many patients do not have anxiety but instead have symptoms of anhedonia or dysphoria, anger, aggression, or dissociation.