Either the mental state returns to normal in a few days (neuro-vegetative and psychological symptoms subside, the individual is no longer entirely preoccupied by the event and can resume his previous activities), or a psychotraumatic syndrome appears, characterized by the re-experience of the event, avoidance of stimuli reminiscent of the trauma, hyperreactivity, and constant preoccupation with the trauma. Psychotraumatic symptoms may appear only after weeks, or months. This is the so-called ''latency period'', which had been identified in traumatic neurosis by Charcot and Janet, and called period of incubation, contemplation, meditation or rumination. The duration of this period is variable: each individual needs a different amount of time to organize new defense mechanisms. Furthermore, if the individual is still hospitalized, he may wait till he recovers his autonomy to start coping with the trauma. ICD-10 and DSM-IV propose the diagnostic term ''post-traumatic stress disorder'' (PTSD) (acute type, since the duration is short) for this syndrome. In addition, DSM-IV offers the category ''acute stress disorder'' for the cases with dissociative symptoms (appearing in the immediate phase) and psychotraumatic symptoms such as re-experiencing (appearing within 4 weeks of the trauma). Individuals who presented with a maladaptive acute stress reaction are more at risk to present with acute PTSD afterwards. However, this course is not unavoidable, and there are cases of maladaptive stress reaction that recover without consequences, whereas individuals who initially responded adaptively to the trauma may later develop severe PTSD.
Was this article helpful?