Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is defined as a type of disorder involving impaired functioning following exposure to a traumatic experience, such as combat, rape or other physical assault, technological or natural disasters. Impairment in which the person experiences such problems as reliving or re-experiencing the trauma, intense fear, avoidance of event related stimuli, general numbing of emotional responsiveness, and heightened autonomic arousal (Nevid & Greene, 2001 p. 492). To explore this disturbing abnormal behavior, one must examine how PTSD is assessed, what symptoms one can expect from a PTSD patient, what professionals have concluded about any causes, and any possible treatment options available.
In order to assess weather a patient suffers from PTSD, a clinician should first refer to the DSM-IV. The DSM-IV recognizes PTSD as an anxiety disorder, which places its" diagnosis in the Axis 1 tier. Diagnostic categories are described in terms of essential features and any associated features to aid in an assessment of a patient. The diagnostic feature of PTSD within the DSM-IV is the re-experiencing of a highly traumatic event accompanied by heightened arousal and avoidance of stimuli associated with the event. Extreme anxiety and a feeling of detachment from oneself further characterize PTSD. These feelings can persist for month or years after the traumatic event and may not begin until months after (Nevid & Greene, 2001, p. 89-166).
The Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) was one of the first diagnostic interview techniques developed for PTSD. Developed by Veteran Administration (VA) experts, CAPS is the standard used for assessing and diagnosing PTSD for both military veterans and civilian trauma survivors (Kohn, C., Hasty, S., Henderson, C.W., 2002, p. 1). According to Kohn, et al (2002), "clinicians at all levels of our healthcare system would benefit from using the same educational materials used by the Department of Veterans Affairs, one of the organizations with the most PTSD experience" (p.