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Copyright 2005 The Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy 
The Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy

NOTE: The Warrior Returns: Struggling to Address Criminal Behavior by Veterans with PTSD

Summer, 2005

3 Geo. J.L. & Pub. Pol'y 541





Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by the persistence of the initial response to a traumatic event for a significant period of time after the traumatic stimulus ceases. 1 Unlike most other psychiatric disorders, those who suffer from PTSD share a "known etiological component," 2 namely, a traumatic event. A traumatic event is one that involves serious injury, death, or emotional imbalance 3 to one's self or another, 4 and is characterized by a negative valence (great aversion), uncontrollability, and suddenness. 5 Such an event includes both objective and subjective elements: a traumatic event that can trigger PTSD is "beyond the range of usual [everyday] human experience" 6 and "would generate symptoms of distress in virtually anyone exposed to it;" 7 yet "the perception of the event is more important than the actual danger associated with the event." 8

The negative valence, uncontrollability, and suddenness of the traumatic event are core elements of the experience, the intensity of which helps explain why psychological symptoms vary among individuals exposed to trauma. 9 The negativity of the experience is bound up with the perceived threat of physical pain, injury, death, or emotional pain that stems from the event. 10 A traumatic event is naturally met with "fear, helplessness, or horror." 11 The uncontrollability of the event refers to the extent to which trauma victims believe they lack control over the situation. 12 As for ...
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