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Posttraumatic Residues of Captivity: A Follow-Up of Israeli Ex_Prisoners of War

J Clin Psychiatry 2000;61:39-46

Background: This article examines the long-term impact of wartime captivity.

Method: One hundred sixty-four prisoners of war (POWs) and 189 matched combatants of the 1973 Yom Kippur War filled out a series of questionnaires that assessed posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), general psychiatric symptomatology, and social functioning according to DSM-III-R criteria.

Results: Almost 2 decades after the war, ex-POWs exhibited higher rates and greater intensity of posttraumatic stress reactions, more general psychiatric symptomatology, and more severe problems in functioning at home, at work, and in the military than did the control group (Israeli veterans who were not POWs). They were also more likely to obtain official disability recognition and to seek psychological help. Their recovery was slower and professional help less effective. In addition, the veterans with PTSD in both groups had high rates of comorbid general psychiatric symptomatology.

Conclusion: These findings point to the depth, range, and persistence of the stress residuals of wartime captivity.