Most people associate PTSD with someone who's been in a combat situation, a terror situation or a natural disaster ONLY. Since some people may be confused about PTSD associated with birth, I wanted to post the DSM's definition so you can see it is not something only associated with war, as many people believe.
DSM-IV-TR specifies six diagnostic criteria for PTSD:
- Traumatic stressor: The patient has been exposed to a catastrophic event involving actual or threatened death or injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of the self or others. During exposure to the trauma, the person's emotional response was marked by intense fear, feelings of helplessness, or horror. In general, stressors caused intentionally by human beings (genocide, rape, torture, abuse, etc.) are experienced as more traumatic than accidents, natural disasters, or "acts of God."
- Intrusive symptoms: The patient experiences flashbacks, traumatic daydreams, or nightmares, in which he or she relives the trauma as if it were recurring in the present. Intrusive symptoms result from an abnormal process of memory formation. Traumatic memories have two distinctive characteristics: 1) they can be triggered by stimuli that remind the patient of the traumatic event; 2) they have a "frozen" or wordless quality, consisting of images and sensations rather than verbal descriptions.
- Avoidant symptoms: The patient attempts to reduce the possibility of exposure to anything that might trigger memories of the trauma, and to minimize his or her reactions to such memories. This cluster of symptoms includes feeling disconnected from other people, psychic numbing, and avoidance of places, persons, or things associated with the trauma. Patients with PTSD are at increased risk of substance abuse as a form of self-medication to numb painful memories.
- Hyperarousal: Hyperarousal is a condition in which the patient's nervous system is always on "red alert" for the return of danger. This, symptom cluster includes hypervigilance, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, general irritability and an extreme startle response. Some clinicians think that this abnormally intense startle response may be the most characteristic symptom of PTSD.
- Duration of symptoms: The symptoms must persist for at least one month.
- Significance: The patient suffers from significant social, interpersonal, or work-related problems as a result of the PTSD symptoms. A common social symptom of PTSD is a feeling of disconnection from other people (including loved ones), from the larger society, and from spiritual or other significant sources of meaning.
For more information on PTSD in general, an excellent website is: http://www.mental-health-today.com/ptsd/dsm.htm
Another website, which addresses PTSD specifically for postpartum women, and is an excellent resource in general is: http://www.solaceformothers.org/PTSD_info.html
-Just a quick note that I'm not a doctor, mental health professional, etc. This is simply information that is fact as well as websites that I've found useful.