The person was exposed to a traumatic, severe, disturbing, intense, out-of-the ordinary event in which both of the following elements were present:

  • the subject has experienced, witnessed, been confronted with, one or multiple event(s) during which individuals may have died or been very seriously injured, threatened with death or serious injury, or during which their physical integrity or that of others may have been threatened;
  • the subject’s reaction to the event was one of intense fear, helplessness or horror.

This reaction is considered normal for a period of time. When they last beyond four weeks, it is called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The symptoms may be in continuity with the event, or they may be delayed in time and resurface much later, on the occasion of a new stress or on the anniversary date, for example. They are also accompanied by a decrease in emotional reactions.

Persistent reliving of a traumatic event.

  • Memories (images, thoughts, perceptions) of the event that resurface at any time
  • Recurring nightmares
  • Impression that the situation will recur or sudden conviction of reliving the event;
  • Illusions, sudden reminiscences (flashbacks)
  • Great distress and physiological reactivity in the presence of elements that recall the trauma

Avoidance of associated stimuli with blunting of general reactions

  • Avoidance of anything that reminds one of the trauma and efforts to flee from thoughts, emotions, conversations, activities, places or people that are associated with the event
  • Inability to remember an important aspect of the event
  • Marked loss of interest or decreased participation in activities that were important to the person before the trauma
  • Feeling of being in a haze
  • Feeling of being detached from others
  • Difficulty experiencing certain feelings
  • Loss of hope for projects that were once close to one’s heart

Symptoms of neurovegetative activation

  • Sleep problems
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hypervigilance
  • Exaggerated startle reactions


The intensity and duration of the disorder varies from individual to individual and it is not necessary to have all the symptoms in each category to be diagnosed with it.