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Original Research

Trauma and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Primary Care Patients

Steven E. Bruce, Ph.D.; Risa B. Weisberg, Ph.D.; Regina T. Dolan, Ph.D.; Jason T. Machan, M.S.; Ronald C. Kessler, Ph.D.; Gertrude Manchester, M.D.; Larry Culpepper, M.D.; and Martin B. Keller, M.D

Published: October 1, 2001

Article Abstract

Background: This article examines the nature of psychological trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 504 patients recruited from primary care settings.

Method: Patients were screened for anxiety in waiting rooms at 14 general medical settings, and those with a sufficient number and severity of anxiety symptoms were administered a standardized diagnostic clinical interview. Those who met DSM-IV criteria for an anxiety disorder and who were willing to participate were included in this study. Of the 504 patients, 185 met DSM-IV criteria for PTSD.

Results: Results indicated that 418 (83%) of primary care patients in our sample reported at least 1 traumatic event in their lifetime. The most prevalent traumas experienced by the entire sample of participants were witnessing others being seriously injured or killed, serious accidents, and rape. Of those participants with PTSD, rape was the strongest predictor of a PTSD diagnosis. Analyses examining gender differences indicated that, for women, a history of other unwanted sexual contact or witnessing a sexual assault, being attacked with a weapon or with intent to kill, or witnessing someone being injured were found to be risk factors for a PTSD diagnosis. Examination of clinical characteristics indicated a high rate of comorbidity of psychiatric disorders among patients with PTSD, including high rates of alcohol/substance abuse, depression, and suicide attempts.

Conclusion: These findings emphasize the continued need to assess patients presenting at general medical facilities about trauma history.

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Volume: 3

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