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, 18 (3), 259-269

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: A State-Of-The-Art Review of Evidence and Challenges


Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: A State-Of-The-Art Review of Evidence and Challenges

Richard A Bryant. World Psychiatry.


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is arguably the most common psychiatric disorder to arise after exposure to a traumatic event. Since its formal introduction in the DSM-III in 1980, knowledge has grown significantly regarding its causes, maintaining mechanisms and treatments. Despite this increased understanding, however, the actual definition of the disorder remains controversial. The DSM-5 and ICD-11 define the disorder differently, reflecting disagreements in the field about whether the construct of PTSD should encompass a broad array of psychological manifestations that arise after trauma or should be focused more specifically on trauma memory phenomena. This controversy over clarifying the phenotype of PTSD has limited the capacity to identify biomarkers and specific mechanisms of traumatic stress. This review provides an up-to-date outline of the current definitions of PTSD, its known prevalence and risk factors, the main models to explain the disorder, and evidence-supported treatments. A major conclusion is that, although trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy is the best-validated treatment for PTSD, it has stagnated over recent decades, and only two-thirds of PTSD patients respond adequately to this intervention. Moreover, most people with PTSD do not access evidence-based treatment, and this situation is much worse in low- and middle-income countries. Identifying processes that can overcome these major barriers to better management of people with PTSD remains an outstanding challenge.

Keywords: DSM-5; ICD-11; Post-traumatic stress disorder; access to treatment; cognitive behavior therapy; definition; evidence-based treatment; trauma.

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