Researchers suggest diagnostic criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder are lacking

Dec 16, 2010

Current diagnostic procedures for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) fail to adequately reflect research into the broad nature of a traumatic event, according to a study that will appear in the January print issue of Psychological Bulletin.

The relevancy of an individual's subjective experience in determining what constitutes a traumatic event has been a source of debate among PTSD specialists for years. The study concludes that both objective and subjective factors are relevant and that current PTSD criteria are missing several reactions that many survivors experience.

The study's authors conducted a comprehensive literature review of the research on peritraumatic experiences and the types of reactions that trauma survivors often demonstrate. They found that individuals adapt to extreme experiences in a highly complex and coordinated manner.

"A person's response is multifaceted and may include appraisals and other thoughts, a variety of felt emotions and behaviors. It's not enough to rely on the objective qualities of an experience to determine whether it should be considered traumatic or not," said co-author Brian P. Marx, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine and psychologist at the VA National Center for PTSD. "Trauma should be defined as the interaction between the individual and his or her environment and all parts of an individual's response should be considered."

PTSD is believed to be the result of exposure to trauma, so understanding what defines a is critical. Current criteria for PTSD in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual include few distinct subjective emotions. The authors suggest that researchers investigate and add more appropriate examples to these criteria in order to more accurately categorize traumatic events.

"Knowing exactly what trauma is can help us to better know who is a trauma survivor and who is not," said Marx. "It is critical that we know this for the purposes of understanding the disorder as well as being better able to help those who are survivors of trauma."

Explore further: Mood instability common to mental health disorders and associated with poor outcomes

Related Stories

Metabolic syndrome a risk for veterans with PTSD

Jan 08, 2009

Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are more likely to have metabolic syndrome than veterans without PTSD, according to a study led by Pia Heppner, Ph.D., psychologist with the University of California, San ...

PTSD associated with more, longer hospitalizations

Mar 27, 2008

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Boston Medical Center (BMC) have found post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with more hospitalizations, longer hospitalizations and greater mental ...

Recommended for you

Hiding your true colors may make you feel morally tainted

15 hours ago

The advice, whether from Shakespeare or a modern self-help guru, is common: Be true to yourself. New research suggests that this drive for authenticity—living in accordance with our sense of self, emotions, ...

Odds are that chronic gamblers are often also depressed

15 hours ago

If a young man is a chronic gambler, the chances are extremely high that he also suffers from depression. This is one of the findings from a study led by Frédéric Dussault of the University of Quebec at Montreal in Canada. ...

Can a little loving kindness improve our mental health?

19 hours ago

Mindfulness - an ancient Buddhist approach to meditation - is attracting increasing attention in the 21st century as a non-invasive treatment for stress and depression. But can it improve mental wellbeing ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.