Skip to Content

Overview of Trauma- and Stress-Related Disorders


John W. Barnhill

, MD, Weill Cornell Medical College and New York Presbyterian Hospital

Last full review/revision Apr 2020| Content last modified Apr 2020

Trauma- and stress-related disorders result from exposure to a traumatic or stressful event. Specific disorders include acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder. These disorders cause similar symptoms but differ in how long they last.

Acute stress disorder typically begins immediately after the event and lasts from 3 days to 1 month.

Posttraumatic stress disorder lasts for more than 1 month. It may develop as a continuation of acute stress disorder or develop separately up to 6 months after the event.

Although depression and anxiety are often prominent, people with trauma-related disorders often have a wide variety of symptoms that may not obviously seem related to the traumatic event. For example, people may act aggressively, be unable to experience pleasure, and/or feel restless, discontented, angry, numb, or disconnected from themselves and others.

More Information

  • National Institutes of Mental Health, Trauma: General information on the nature of trauma, including healthy ways to cope with it, crisis lines, and educational programs

Copyright © 2021 Merck & Co., Inc., known as MSD outside of the US, Kenilworth, New Jersey, USA. All rights reserved. Merck Manual Disclaimer