Post-traumatic stress disorder

Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2015 Oct 8:1:15057. doi: 10.1038/nrdp.2015.57.


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs in 5-10% of the population and is twice as common in women as in men. Although trauma exposure is the precipitating event for PTSD to develop, biological and psychosocial risk factors are increasingly viewed as predictors of symptom onset, severity and chronicity. PTSD affects multiple biological systems, such as brain circuitry and neurochemistry, and cellular, immune, endocrine and metabolic function. Treatment approaches involve a combination of medications and psychotherapy, with psychotherapy overall showing greatest efficacy. Studies of PTSD pathophysiology initially focused on the psychophysiology and neurobiology of stress responses, and the acquisition and the extinction of fear memories. However, increasing emphasis is being placed on identifying factors that explain individual differences in responses to trauma and promotion of resilience, such as genetic and social factors, brain developmental processes, cumulative biological and psychological effects of early childhood and other stressful lifetime events. The field of PTSD is currently challenged by fluctuations in diagnostic criteria, which have implications for epidemiological, biological, genetic and treatment studies. However, the advent of new biological methodologies offers the possibility of large-scale approaches to heterogeneous and genetically complex brain disorders, and provides optimism that individualized approaches to diagnosis and treatment will be discovered.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / etiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / physiopathology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / psychology
  • Stress, Physiological