Study conducted during war finds one symptom that is especially indicative of PTSD vulnerability

Posted on February 21, 2018

PTSD is seen to be a dynamic process in which symptoms interact over time to cause the disorder, and some symptoms likely play a bigger causal role than others. In a new paper due for publication in Psychological Medicine and released as a pre-print at the Open Science Framework, a team of researchers from Israel and Amsterdam conducted analysis on data collected from Israeli civilians during the 50-day Israeli-Gaza war of 2014.

Twice a day, for 30 days, they received a personalised email link to an online version of a 20-item diagnostic checklist for PTSD. They then self-report on four categories of symptoms: intrusions (such as nightmares and flashbacks); avoidance (of thoughts about and reminders of the traumatic event); negative alterations in mood and thoughts (such as amnesia, blame of self); and alterations in arousal and reactivity (including irritability and anger, hyper-vigilance, and the startle response – an involuntary reaction to a flash of light, a loud noise, or a sudden, potentially threatening movement).

The researchers found that showing the startle response was clearly the most important predictor of future PTSD symptoms. Participants who showed any of these five symptoms earlier in the study (but the startle response, especially) were more likely to show even more PTSD-related symptoms later on – and those who had more of these predictive symptoms early on developed even more of the other symptoms of PTSD over time.

While some potentially relevant variables – such as gender, trauma history and severity of exposure to the conflict – were omitted from their analysis, the researchers write that “It is important to note that collecting [this kind of] data regarding traumatic stress symptoms during a conflict situation is unparalleled in the literature.”

Category(s):Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) / Trauma / Complex PTSD

Source material from Research digest

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