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Original Research

Probable Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in the US Veteran Population According to DSM-5: Results From the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study

Blair E. Wisco, PhD; Brian P. Marx, PhD; Mark W. Miller, PhD; Erika J. Wolf, PhD; Natalie P. Mota, PhD; John H. Krystal, MD; Steven M. Southwick, MD; and Robert H. Pietrzak, PhD, MPH

Published: November 23, 2016

Article Abstract

Objective: With the publication of DSM-5, important changes were made to the diagnostic criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including the addition of 3 new symptoms. Some have argued that these changes will further increase the already high rates of comorbidity between PTSD and other psychiatric disorders. This study examined the prevalence of DSM-5 PTSD, conditional probability of PTSD given certain trauma exposures, endorsement of specific PTSD symptoms, and psychiatric comorbidities in the US veteran population.

Methods: Data were analyzed from the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study (NHRVS), a Web-based survey of a cross-sectional, nationally representative, population-based sample of 1,484 US veterans, which was fielded from September through October 2013. Probable PTSD was assessed using the PTSD Checklist-5.

Results: The weighted lifetime and past-month prevalence of probable DSM-5 PTSD was 8.1% (SE = 0.7%) and 4.7% (SE = 0.6%), respectively. Conditional probability of lifetime probable PTSD ranged from 10.1% (sudden death of close family member or friend) to 28.0% (childhood sexual abuse). The DSM-5 PTSD symptoms with the lowest prevalence among veterans with probable PTSD were trauma-related amnesia and reckless and self-destructive behavior. Probable PTSD was associated with increased odds of mood and anxiety disorders (OR = 7.6-62.8, P < .001), substance use disorders (OR = 3.9-4.5, P < .001), and suicidal behaviors (OR = 6.7-15.1, P < .001).

Conclusions: In US veterans, the prevalence of DSM-5 probable PTSD, conditional probability of probable PTSD, and odds of psychiatric comorbidity were similar to prior findings with DSM-IV-based measures; we found no evidence that changes in DSM-5 increase psychiatric comorbidity. Results underscore the high rates of exposure to both military and nonmilitary trauma and the high public health burden of DSM-5 PTSD and comorbid conditions in veterans.

Volume: 77

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