Public Health Traumatic Stress and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Carmen P. Mclean, Edna B. Foa
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 November 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 November 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0014


The past two decades have witnessed an enormous growth of rigorous research that has broadened our understanding of traumatic stress and the etiology and treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In the newest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) American Psychiatric Association (2013), PTSD is conceptualized as an anxiety disorder that encompasses severe and persistent stress reactions after exposure to a traumatic event. A prerequisite to the diagnosis of PTSD is that an individual has experienced, witnessed, or been exposed to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violation. The DSM-5 requires that the symptoms be present for more than one month after the trauma in order to avoid assigning a mental health diagnosis to people who experience a transient stress response. In addition to PTSD, DSM-5 includes the diagnosis of acute stress disorder (ASD), which describes stress reactions that occur in the initial month after exposure to trauma. Population studies indicate that most people are exposed to traumatic events that can potentially trigger PTSD at some point in their lifetime. Although most of these individuals naturally recover after trauma, a significant minority go on to develop chronic PTSD. After a year, in the absence of effective treatment, PTSD tends to be a chronic and disabling disorder that is frequently comorbid with other psychiatric disorders and is associated with low quality of life. Therefore, it is heartening that there are effective interventions that can ameliorate chronic PTSD. A substantial body of compelling evidence has shown that certain psychotherapies, namely, cognitive-behavior therapies, are effective in reducing PTSD symptomology relative to wait-list and active control conditions. In this bibliography, we present several books that provide excellent general overviews of trauma and PTSD. We next present a number of peer-reviewed journals that publish empirical research on the topic of traumatic stress. These journals serve as resources for those seeking more detailed information or the most up-to-date work on specific topics. The remainder of the bibliography focuses on the major areas of research on PTSD, including the epidemiology of trauma and PTSD, major theoretical accounts of PTSD, developmental issues, social and cultural issues relevant to the development, clinical presentation, and treatment of PTSD. Finally, we present key works on early intervention for acute stress disorder and psychological treatments for chronic PTSD.

General Overviews

The selections in this section constitute a sampling of a vast number of general overviews on the topic of PTSD. Van der Kolk, et al. 1996 and Friedman, et al. 2007 are both comprehensive books written and edited by leading international experts on PTSD. Advantages of Friedman, et al. 2007 are that it includes an overview of theoretical models of PSTD, and a more detailed discussion of recent scientific issues and debates related to the disorder. In addition, it was compiled more recently and therefore contains up-to-date information for clinicians and researchers. Both books would be appropriate for graduate students and professionals in the field of abnormal and clinical psychology. A third book, Foa, et al. 2009, provides an excellent reference for clinicians and researchers interested in the current best practices for treating PTSD.

  • Foa, Edna B., Terence M. Keane, Mathew J. Friedman, and Judith A. Cohen, eds. 2009. Effective treatments for PTSD: Practice guidelines from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. 2d ed. New York: Guilford.

    This edited book provides clinicians and researchers with the current best practices for the diagnosis and treatment of PTSD in children and adolescents. It is written for professionals and would be appropriate as a graduate-level text.

  • Friedman, Matthew J., Terence M. Keane, and Patricia A. Resick, eds. 2007. Handbook of PTSD: Science and practice. New York: Guilford.

    This edited book provides a comprehensive review of what has been learned about PTSD in the past twenty-five years. Includes a historical overview, review of theories, current research methodologies, and clinical best practices related to PTSD. It is written for professionals and would be appropriate as a graduate-level text. A second edition is in press.

  • van der Kolk, Bessel, Alexander C. McFarlane, and Lars Weisaeth, eds. 1996. Traumatic stress: The effects of overwhelming experience on mind, body, and society. New York: Guilford.

    This edited book covers a range of critical topics related to the effects of trauma, including biological and cultural aspects of trauma, problems of dissociation and information processing, general treatment principles, and specific treatment approaches.

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