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Overview of PTSD

Learn more about the features of PTSD, types and possible risk factors.

In this short video, Prof. Helen Minnis highlights some of the distinguishing features of PTSD, considers how people exposed to traumatic events can best be supported in the immediate aftermath and briefly discusses research progress in this area.

Photo of Prof. Helen Minnis Helen Minnis is a Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Glasgow. Professor Minnis spent time working as an Orphanage Doctor in Guatemala in the early 1990s prior to training in Psychiatry, and this stimulated an interest in the effects of early maltreatment on children’s development.

Types of PTSD

The image shows a timeline from traumatic event to nine months laterThe image shows a timeline from traumatic event to nine months later, showing the different ways PTSD can be classified depending on when the onset is. click to see larger version

Although individuals may experience PTSD symptoms immediately following a traumatic event, symptoms must persist for at least 1 month following exposure in order for a diagnosis of PTSD to be made. Trauma symptoms that develop within a month of the event, and last less than one month, indicate a diagnosis of Acute Stress Disorder. If PTSD symptoms persist after 1 month of the traumatic event but last less than 3 months, a diagnosis of Acute PTSD is appropriate. However, if these symptoms persist beyond 3 months, a diagnosis of Chronic PTSD is applicable. Finally, should symptoms develop 6 months after the event, a diagnosis of Delayed-Onset PTSD can be made.

Complex PTSD

Complex PTSD may develop following exposure to an event or a series of events of an extremely threatening nature. Most commonly, the events are prolonged or repetitive. They are usually difficult, or indeed impossible, to escape from. Such events may include: torture, slavery, genocide, prolonged domestic violence, and repeated sexual or physical abuse.

For a diagnosis of complex PTSD to be made, all the diagnostic requirements for PTSD are met. Additionally, complex PTSD is characterised by “severe and persistent:
  • problems in affect regulation
  • beliefs about oneself as diminished, defeated or worthless, accompanied by feelings of shame, guilt or failure related to the traumatic event
  • difficulties in sustaining relationships and in feeling close to others.
These symptoms cause significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.” (WHO, 2019)

Reflect on, and make some personal notes about, the implications of this diverse presentation of PTSD for the prevention and treatment of the disorder.


World Health Organisation. (2019). International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (11th Revision).

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the Global Context

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