Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - The "Clinical" Definition

FamilyOfaVet - Real world info about PTSD, TBI, & life after combat
FamilyOfaVet - Real World info about PTSD, TBI, & life after combat.

What is PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

Sometimes the "medical" wording in clinical definitions makes them sound like Chinese to
me.  But, from the standpoint of being able to speak intelligently with physicians,
counselors, etc., I believe it's still good to at least be aware of them.

**Scroll down if you'd like to skip the clinical mumbo jumbo.**

The clinical definition (from the American Psychiatric Association) of PTSD is:

"This disorder is described as occurring when:

A. The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following were
    (1) the person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events
    that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical
    integrity of self  or others.
    (2) the person's response involved intense fear, helplessness or horror.

B. The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in one (or more) of the following ways:
    (1) recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images,
    thoughts, or perceptions.
    (2) recurrent distressing dreams of the event.
    (3) acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of
    reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes,
    including those that occur on awakening or when intoxicated).
    (4) intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that
    symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event
    (5) physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or
    resemble an aspect of the traumatic event

C. Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general
responsiveness (not present before the trauma), as indicated by at least three (or more) of
the following:
    (1) efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings or conversations associated with the trauma,
    (2) efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the
    (3) inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma,
    (4) markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities,
    (5) feelings of detachment or estrangement from others,
    (6) restricted range of affect (e.g., unable to have loving feelings),
    (7) sense of a foreshortened future (e.g., does not expect to have a career,
    marriage, children, or even a long life span).

D. Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (not present before the trauma), as indicated
by two (or more) of the following:
    (1) difficulty falling or staying asleep;
    (2) irritability or outbursts of anger;
    (3) difficulty concentrating;
    (4) hypervigilance;
    (5) exaggerated startle response.

E. Duration of the disturbance (symptoms in Criteria B, C, and D) is more than 1 month.

F. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social,
occupational, or other important areas of functioning."

(The definition above comes from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders, fourth Edition. Copyright 1994; American Psychiatric Association. To view this
definition with added "commentary" explaining some of it in easier to digest terms,
HERE and when the new page opens, scroll down to Section III.)

The Jeff Foxworthy Definition of PTSD*

*This wasn't really written by Jeff Foxworthy... but I got your attention, right?

If your wife has to wake you up by tapping on your feet with
a long stick to keep from getting punched...
you might have PTSD.

If you are convinced that every crowded situation
is dangerous and must be avoided...
you might have PTSD.

If you've ever met a delivery guy at the door with a loaded weapon...
you might have PTSD.

If a car backfiring causes you to jump ten feet and dive for cover...
you might have PTSD.

If your "temper tantrums" are more impressive than your three-year-old's...
you might have PTSD.

The Real World Definition of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

All joking aside... if you want a plain English definition of PTSD... here's my version of what
Combat PTSD is.

Combat PTSD is a mental condition that affects people who have gone to war.  It does not
mean you're crazy.  It just means you're having a normal reaction to living in a bad situation.

Combat PTSD occurs when:

  1. You spend too much time surrounded by generally rude people (yes, I'm being
    sarcastic) who are trying to kill you, blow you up, and basically make your daily life
  2. You see your buddies killed or wounded.
  3. You see a few or a whole lot of dead bodies.
  4. You have to help clean up one or more dead bodies.
  5. You spend a while in a place where dying is a constant possibility.
  6. You have to kill one or more combatants.

Indications that you may have PTSD are:

  1. Persistent nightmares about combat or other situations in Iraq or Afghanistan.
  2. Losing your temper over small things - things that wouldn't have mattered in the past.
  3. Not being able to react to other people's emotions (your wife is crying, and you're
    standing there staring at her).
  4. Hating to go into crowded or unfamiliar situations.
  5. Having flashbacks - suddenly being back in Iraq or Afghanistan (in your head) in the
    middle of a firefight, etc.
  6. Feeling threatened by everything (you're driving down the road and get boxed in
    between two cars and you feel like running them off the road).
  7. Automatically ducking for cover when a loud noise occurs.
  8. Not enjoying, being happy, or looking forward to anything.
  9. Not feeling close to anyone.
  10. Not being able to fall asleep.
  11. Not being able to stay asleep.
  12. Not being able to stand "stupid" people (anyone who isn't doing things exactly like
    you think they should be done).

This is not by any means an exhaustive list.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder effects
every person differently.  But, if some or a lot of the things above sound familiar, you (or
your Vet), may have PTSD.  Seek help as soon as possible!

This article was written by Brannan Vines, the proud wife of an OIF veteran and founder of  To contact Brannan, you can reach her by e-mail (brannan -at-
About This Site  |  Media Room  |  Contact Us  |  Site Map  |  Link Share  |  Spread the Word

If you have questions or concerns about this site, please e-mail us at Info -at-
Family Of a Vet, Inc., is a federally recognized 501(c)3 non-profit corporation.  
All donations to Family Of a Vet are tax deductible.  For more information about supporting the work we do,
This page dedicated to helping Veterans and their loved ones learn more about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Don't forget to take our Congressional Survey!
As little as 10 minutes of your time can help us make a difference in your life!! welcomes and encourages the off-line distribution of content from its website through appropriate channels but no use is granted without our specific permission. Please contact us by e-mail at Permissions -at- stating the specific content to be used and place and means of off-line distribution. Webmasters, bloggers, etc., wishing to use a limited amount of content from our site for non-commercial, on-line purposes may do so as long as a backlink to our site is provided. © Copyright 2007 - / Family Of a Vet, Inc. All rights reserved.
<div align="center"><a href="" title=""><img src="" alt="" style="border:none;" /></a></div>
place one of our buttons
on your site or blog and
help spread the word
about FOV.  Thanks!
<div align="center"><a href="" title=""><img src="" alt="" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

About This Site  |  Media Room  |  Contact Us  |  Site Map  |  Link Share  |  Spread the Word  |  Volunteer
our mission: to provide real world resources that help heroes and their loved ones survive & thrive in life after combat