Trauma may be any event that involves death, threatened death, serious injury or threat to one's physical integrity. Certain events that may be subjectively defined as traumatic, such as divorce, do not include an element of serious physical threat; therefore, they are not defined as trauma based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ([DSM-IV-TR]; American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2000).
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that develops in some clients following a traumatic event. It is the only diagnosis in the fourth edition of the DSM-IV-TR (APA, 2000) that specifies an etiology. Although there is plenty of research on the assessment and treatment of PTSD, there is, unfortunately, a gap between evidence-based practice and routine clinical care (Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health [ACPMH], 2007).
Some people will develop PTSD following a traumatic event, and primary care practitioners are often their first point of contact. Thorough screening is essential to determine working diagnoses and whether further assessment and clinical care are required.