Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder triggered by trauma considered by the individual experiencing it to be life-threatening. It can present at any age and generally occurs within the first three months following the traumatic experience. PTSD can result from a single episode or multiple exposures occurring over time. It is most often associated with war veterans, military contractors, individuals who have suffered abuse or rape, natural disaster victims, victims of and witnesses to a crime, terrorist act, accident or other tragic event, although it can occur under many circumstances.

The most common symptoms associated with PTSD include depression, anger, anxiety, impulsivity, suicidal thinking, violent behavior, dissociation, paranoia, alcohol and substance abuse, and isolation.

The diagnosis of a PTSD can occur after a person has been exposed to a severe trauma, and finds him or herself repeatedly reliving the incident (as if it just happened,) avoiding similar situations and withdrawing from their environment. An analysis of treatments for PTSD reveals that there are multiple modalities for which the effectiveness is often unclear.

One model of treatment is to stabilize the individual psychiatrically and medically, provide increased psychosocial supports, and eventually obtain job testing, training and placement.

PTSD in the Courts

Individuals with PTSD are frequently involved in legal proceedings, either in Civil or Criminal Court. Civil proceedings usually involve the determination as to whether a PTSD is present, its etiology, its presentation, severity and impairment. In criminal proceedings, the etiology, presentation, severity and impairment are considered, but more specifically, criminal proceedings address how a PTSD disorder might have influenced the mental state and behavior of the defendant. Competency and insanity are examples of two criminal proceedings in which PTSD has been considered.

Assessment for drug and alcohol abuse is common as substance abuse frequently co-occurs with PTSD in both Civil and Criminal situations.

A forensic psychiatrist has unique training and experience in assisting the Civil or Criminal Court in its determination as to whether an individual has PTSD . If it is determined that an individual does have a PTSD, a forensic psychiatrist has the unique training and experience to assist in understanding how the PTSD should be considered in a particular suit or criminal allegation.