Post-traumatic stress disorder

What is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’ (DSM-5) criteria for a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) includes having been exposed to a trauma via direct means (e.g. threats, experience, or witnessing), or indirect means (e.g. learning that a relative or close friend has been exposed to a trauma).

For a diagnosis of PTSD, symptoms must last for more than one month and create distress and functioning impairment such as an inability to work, go to school, or socialise. Symptoms include persistently re-experiencing the traumatic event via intrusive thoughts, nightmares, or flashbacks. These can be brought on with exposure to traumatic reminders and are associated with emotional distress. As a result, avoidance of trauma-related stimuli occurs. There is often an inability to recall key features of the trauma.

Other symptoms include negative thoughts and assumptions about oneself or the world, exaggerated blame of self or others for causing the trauma, negative affect, decreased interest in activities, feelings of isolation, irritability or aggression, risky or destructive behavior, hypervigilance, heightened startle reaction, and difficulty concentrating and sleeping.

What is the evidence on PTSD in people with bipolar disorder?

Moderate quality evidence suggests the lifetime prevalence of PTSD in people with bipolar I disorder or bipolar II disorder is around 17%. The current prevalence of PTSD in people with bipolar disorder during euthymia is around 3%.

Moderate to low quality evidence suggests cognitive behavioural therapy may be effective for improving PTSD symptoms in people with bipolar disorder.

April 2019

Last updated at: 6:05 am, 9th April 2019
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