In Brief: Post-traumatic stress without trauma

In Brief

Post-traumatic stress without trauma

A study published in June 2005 challenges the accepted view of reactions to trauma by showing that experiences not usually regarded as traumatic can cause the characteristic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

More than 800 patients from a family practice answered a questionnaire comparing symptoms that follow a traumatic event — one outside the range of normal human experience — with symptoms following more common "life events" such as illness or problems in work and personal relationships.

Subjects were asked whether they had ever experienced a traumatic event — a serious accident, witnessing violence, the sudden and unexpected death of someone they loved, physical or sexual abuse, a war or natural disaster. They were also asked whether they had ever experienced such life events as a burglary, marital conflict, study or work problems, chronic illness, or the death of a loved one that was not sudden or unexpected. Finally, they were asked about the worst event they had ever experienced and when it occurred.

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