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In fact, one cannot make a PTSD diagnosis unless the patient has actually met the "stressor criterion," which means that he or she has been exposed to an event that is considered traumatic.
Clinical experience with the PTSD diagnosis has shown, however, that there are individual differences regarding the capacity to cope with catastrophic stress.
A very similar syndrome is classified in ICD-10 (The ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders: Clinical Descriptions and Diagnostic Guidelines) (6).
One important finding, which was not apparent when PTSD was first proposed as a diagnosis in 1980, is that it is relatively common.
DSM-IV Diagnostic criteria for PTSD included a history of exposure to a traumatic event and symptoms from each of three symptom clusters: intrusive recollections, avoidant/numbing symptoms, and hyper-arousal symptoms.
A fifth criterion concerned duration of symptoms; and, a sixth criterion stipulated that PTSD symptoms must cause significant distress or functional impairment.
The latest revision, the DSM-5 (2013), has made a number of notable evidence-based revisions to PTSD diagnostic criteria, with both important conceptual and clinical implications (9).
Such observations have prompted the recognition that trauma, like pain, is not an external phenomenon that can be completely objectified.From an historical perspective, the significant change ushered in by the PTSD concept was the stipulation that the etiological agent was outside the individual (i.e., a traumatic event) rather than an inherent individual weakness (i.e., a traumatic neurosis).The key to understanding the scientific basis and clinical expression of PTSD is the concept of "trauma." In its initial DSM-III formulation, a traumatic event was conceptualized as a catastrophic stressor that was outside the range of usual human experience.Like pain, the traumatic experience is filtered through cognitive and emotional processes before it can be appraised as an extreme threat.Because of individual differences in this appraisal process, different people appear to have different trauma thresholds, some more protected from and some more vulnerable to developing clinical symptoms after exposure to extremely stressful situations.
Such presentations are marked by negative cognitions and mood states as well as disruptive (e.g.