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Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after non-traumatic events: evidence from an open population study

  • Saskia S. L. Mol (a1), Arnoud Arntz (a2), Job F. M. Metsemakers (a3), Geert-Jan Dinant (a3), Pauline A. P. Vilters-van Montfort (a3) and J. André Knottnerus (a3)...

Abstract

Background

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the only psychiatric condition that requires a specific event to have occurred for its diagnosis.

Aims

To gather evidence from the adult general population on whether life events (e. g. divorce, unemployment) generate as many symptoms of post-traumatic stress as traumatic events (e. g. accidents, abuse).

Method

Data on demographic characteristics and history of stressful events were collected through a written questionnaire sent to a random sample of 2997 adults. Respondents also filled out a PTSD symptom checklist, keeping in mind their worst event. Mean PTSD scores were compared, controlling for differences between the two groups. Differences in item scores and in the distribution of the total PTSD scores were analysed.

Results

Of the 1498 respondents, 832 were eligible for inclusion in our analysis. For events from the past 30 years the PTSD scores were higher after life events than after traumatic events; for earlier events the scores were the same for both types of events. These findings could not be explained by differences in demographics, history of stressful events, individual item scores, or the distribution of the total PTSD scores.

Conclusions

Life events can generate at least as many PTSD symptoms as traumatic events. Our findings call for further studies on the specificity of traumatic events as a cause of PTSD.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Dr Saskia S. L. Mol, Department of General Practice, Julius Centre, Stratenum 6. 108, UMC Utrecht, Postbox 85060, 3508 AB Utrecht, The Netherlands. Tel: +31 30 253 8149; e-mail: s.s.l.mol@umcutrecht.nl

Footnotes

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Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes

References

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Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after non-traumatic events: evidence from an open population study

  • Saskia S. L. Mol (a1), Arnoud Arntz (a2), Job F. M. Metsemakers (a3), Geert-Jan Dinant (a3), Pauline A. P. Vilters-van Montfort (a3) and J. André Knottnerus (a3)...

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Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after non-traumatic events: evidence from an open population study

  • Saskia S. L. Mol (a1), Arnoud Arntz (a2), Job F. M. Metsemakers (a3), Geert-Jan Dinant (a3), Pauline A. P. Vilters-van Montfort (a3) and J. André Knottnerus (a3)...
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