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Legal 500 (2016)

Post-traumatic stress disorder

The term Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was first used after the Vietnam War and formalized in 1980 with its inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders developed by the American Psychiatric Association.

PTSD was called 'shell shock' or 'battle fatigue syndrome', because it first came to prominence during the First World War. It has only recently been recognised that traumatic events outside the war situation can have similar effects.


Post-traumatic stress disorder may occur after any major traumatic event. NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) guidelines 2004 refer to PTSD occurring after "a significantly stressful event that has presented as exceptionally threatening or catastrophic in nature". 25-30% of those exposed to a traumatic event may go on to develop PTSD (1 in 4).

Major traumatic event examples given in literature are as listed below:

  • Major disaster
  • Terrorist threat/attack
  • Major road accident
  • Abuse, rape, personal attack or violence
  • Life-threatening situation
  • Experiences may be direct to the individual or witnessed as an onlooker (i.e. a emergency worker attending a major road accident)

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